First off – can I say that Sajeela coped marvelously well at the start of her performance of Shallow Halal (love the title!) yesterday. Starting ten minutes late due to the unavoidable madness that is Edinburgh right now she worked hard getting us all up to speed with where she’s coming from – born in Pakistan, raised in Surrey – as a Muslim but now an agnostic. The material is deeply personal with tales of a childhood accident and reconciling with her absentee father. But it’s well balanced with plenty of laughs courtesy of Sajeela describing her rebellious teenage years and ‘getting one over on Allah’ during Ramadan by licking food but not swallowing. Extrapolate that to her later, personal relationships and you can see where that one’s going… More surreal – and more chilling – is her telling of her uncle’s kidnap by the Taliban which descended into a kind of Come Dine With Me type farce. Truly mind-boggling but also very funny.
Maybe less effective are the general philosophy bits – for example – ‘just say hello to a woman in a burkha’ echoing the hug-a-hoodie idea. Sajeela also touches upon the thorny issue of treating naive young men better before they can become being radicalised. Of course these are good ideas but they are also linked to very big issues which probably need much more time to explore. The show ends with a blast of ‘All You Need Is Love‘… if it were only that simple (discuss)…
Sajeela is a powerhouse of energy and wit – even with a bad back and sore feet – with a stack of fascinating stories. All in all very insightful, entertaining and funny.
(review for 7 Aug)