Shazia Mirza: Wish You Were Here?

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Catapulted too early into the media spotlight simply because of her race and religion, Shazia Mirza has undergone something of a reinvention for her first solo Edinburgh show.

Gone is the hijab headscarf, gone is the aloof, icy persona, and gone are the solid but soulless one-liners. Instead, her comedy style has matured, and now she appears more as herself, talking about things that happened to her.

The theme of this show is temptation, something with a special resonance for someone whose beliefs prohibit her from alcohol and pre-marital sex.

But these are not, primarily, what she concentrates on, instead using lines like: "I was tempted to tell the truth" to hook any general anecdotes onto her theme. Thus what should have been fascinating instead becomes an amiable observational meander through Mirza's life lacking the impact it could have had.

We hear, for example, about the time she shared a stage with Women's Hour presenter Jenni Murray and was embarrassed by confessing her female role model was Madonna, rather than pretending it was someone more weighty as others had done. As you can imagine, that's not the funniest anecdote in the world.

Some laughs come from emails she had from various fanatics, aggressively criticising her comedy or countless media appearances, even though this is hardly in keeping with the topic of temptation.

Sex, or rather the lack of it is a stronger theme, with Shazia frank about her own virginity, although stopping short of exploring her feelings too deeply. She encounters lesbians, who she unpleasantly identifies by their 'stench', feels bombarded by sexual images and has her opinions influenced by the likes of a 14-year-old pupil from her teacher days becoming pregnant.

It's interesting stuff, and Mirza can hold the crowd with her more conversational style, but the laughs and the insight seem to elude her.

Nonetheless, that she has diverted her comedy towards the more personal marks a significant change in path, and one that may yet lead her to be the great comic she could potentially be, rather than simply the famous one. As her small audience shows, column inches alone do not shift tickets to Edinburgh's comedy cognoscenti.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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