Shazia Mirza – The Kardashians made me do it.
Banbury Mill Arts Centre – April 2016
With only a sketchy knowledge of Shazia Mirza's style I was prepared for an interesting evening in her company, expecting some deft political messages to be delivered in acerbically satirical comic envelopes and to be leaving the theatre with a wry smile and an earnest understanding of her political subtleties. I was wrong, although certainly not disappointed.
She did about half an hour of fairly traditional stand-up before the interval. This was, more or less by her own admission, quite free-ranging and flexible, consisted of a fair sprinkling of audience banter and the usual local observations. It was funny and the audience laughed mostly, but she had made one simple misjudgement in treating this middle-class and comedically-naive audience of Michael MacIntyre fans much the same as she would a drunken hen-night or sea of hard-core comedy enthusiasts. This audience didn't like being called lesbians, laughed with indulgent nervousness the first time she said “fuck” and they certainly didn't like the fact that she kept referring to their town as Oxford, - a schoolgirl error, dare I say.
She did make it clear from the top that the pre-interval routine was just filler, and the real show would start in the second half. And having formed the above opinion during the start, I was certainly not prepared for what followed. In her one hour stand-up show Shazia Mirza very cleverly and quietly delivers a clear global message involving her faith and our perceptions of the world in which we live. And she does so with exceptionally crafted professionalism and good humour. Possibly not great humour, but she is treading a carefully-plotted path unwilling to sacrifice too much of our valuable time to mere comedy when there are important points to be made. Line by line she brings her audience closer, giving us pieces of her own life and willing us to care. We do. She then takes us into quite a dark place, holding our comedy hands to remind us this is just entertainment and we don't have to embrace anything if we choose not to. We feel safe. Then she hits us with an ending designed to just make us understand one or two quite important things quite plainly. It is masterful, we get it.
Exiting the show I felt torn. Happily I did have an earnest understanding of her message, although subtle it most certainly was not. Disappointingly though, I had expected stand-up comedy and been given an amusing piece of political theatre. Would the importance of the message outweigh the lack of gags? The couple leaving in front of me summed up my dilemma: “Did you enjoy that?” he asked her uncertainly. ”Hmm” she replied, “The first half was better than the second”. Noooooo! (BLACKOUT)