Tez Ilyas: Teztify | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett © Steve Ullathorne
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Tez Ilyas: Teztify

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

A rebellious streak runs through Tez Ilyas’s third solo show. But it’s not the angry revolt suggested by the Rage Against The Machine soundtrack and the montage of hate crimes that opens the show, Clockwork Orange style.

No, Ilyas is a subversive just for the way he lives. Believe the media’s insidious, hate-fuelled agenda and you’d think Muslims were intense and humourless, and ought to be somehow ashamed because of their faith.

But Ilyas bloody loves being a Muslim and wants to spread that joy. He is lively, boisterous and always on the lookout for a cheeky prank – another symptom of rebellion which also makes him something of a dickhead, a role he relishes. For a theme of Teztify is that because Muslims are so hated by the establishment, they are the new punks.

However, the show sometimes feels as if it’s pulling in two directions, as Ilyas bids to both make serious points and to muck about. Sometimes the latter neatly undercuts the former for comic effect, especially when his passion is inflamed, other times it’s trickier to pull off.

His starting point is that he has moved from the metropolitan liberal bubble of London back to his roots in Blackburn, where he has renewed an adoring relationship with his impossibly cute young niece and nephew, which gives him new perspective on the world.

All this could gel into something powerful – but it doesn’t, quite. For while some routines pop with satirical intent – such as the schoolboy Ilyas pouring his heart and soul into an essay about the racial abuse his family received, only for the teachers to miss the point entirely – other routines are sluggish and inconsequential. 

Talk of ‘dating a posh girl’ leads into a prolier-than-thou bit about how a mere working-class guy like himself doesn’t know what an olive is, while a bit bashing an anti-immigration Brexiteer isn’t funny enough to allow the justifiable bitterness he expresses.

And while him having a chickeny epiphany when the horrors of battery farming dawn on him may seem a bit random, it does make more sense later, though it remains a laboured bit of material.

His zingy upbeat style – garnished with generous expressions of street slang, BT Dubs – enlivens every story, but he can also turn serious in a heartbeat, which he exploits in his sombre conclusion about a dystopian future.

Those delivery skills combined with his political nous, social relevance and playful nature, will one day give Ilyas an astounding show. This isn’t it, but it’s always fun to hear what he’s got to say about the world from where he’s standing.

Review date: 18 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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