Shazia Mirza: Between You And Me

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Shazia Mirza is starting to develop as a comic, four years after September 11 propelled her to a fame far beyond her ability. But progress is still slow.

She now presents a friendlier persona to the audience, loosening her usual impenetrable aloofness – although when she attempts to banter, it still tends to be blighted by garbled nerves, even after all this time.

The subject matter of her show hasn’t moved on much, either. Last year she tackled sex – or her lack of it – and her Islamic faith. This year she does the same, generally to better affect even though it is surrounded in a lot of woolly, forgettable waffle.

Much of her core topic, though, is genuinely fascinating and throws up all sort of interesting questions about why Muslim men traditionally subjugate women they blame for sexually provoking them, rather than trying to control their own urges. Why they might date white women, but never marry them. Why they apparently think visiting prostitutes is acceptable.

Yet the problem is these questions say hanging in the air; the show’s not structured nor well argued enough to even suggest any conclusions, let alone make much sense of the mass of contradictions inherent in her culture.

But while she’s left wanting on the big issues, a few of the personal tales are more revealing, and more amusing. The fun comes, relatively late in the show, when her mother applies to a devout dating agency on Mirza’s behalf, submitting details that read more like a job application than a romantic proposal.

But then romance isn’t important when it comes to that all-important marriage. A fact that’s made quite obvious with some of the strange ‘dates’ she goes on, and retells with a lightness of touch, cheeky wit and insight that mostly eludes her elsewhere. There is certainly a lesson she could learn here, about drawing from personal experience rather than tackling the big picture.

What is most revealing is that some of the oppressive beliefs towards women persist in even intelligent, British -born and raised Muslim men who go out with white girls. Why? Can the divide ever be breached? And has Western society gone too far in losing its virtues of modesty and restraint?

Don’t go looking for answers here. Though you will learn, bizarrely, that many Muslim men have urges towards Cilla Black. Well, surprise, surprise!

The best part of the show comes at  he end, when she describes a Muslim women’s swimming session at her local swimming pool in East London in revelatory detail. ‘They all swim in one direction – towards Mecca,’ she jokes. Only it’s not a joke. The funniest thing she says, and it turns out to be the truth.

As a fairly witty lecture into the sexual attitudes of Muslims, it’s engaging and  interesting if slightly unsatisfying. As a comedy show, it’s just still not strong enough yet. Much as it’s easier to warm to the on-stage Shazia these days, the show still too short on robust laughs to be genuinely recommended, especially in such a late-night slot where expectations are high.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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