Tez Ilyas: Made In Britain | Review by Steve Bennett
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Tez Ilyas: Made In Britain

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s a touch of Mr Saturday Night about Tez Ilyas. He has the patter, the shiny suit and even the three-letter first name that would fit nicely alongside Ant or Dec.

But there’s an issue. He’s Muslim. And that means he HAS to become a spokesman for the near 3 million people in the UK who share his religion. All of them.

Whether he’s been drawn into the wider social dialogue reluctantly or not, he proves an excellent communicator of what it means to sit on the intersection of two cultures. Those showbiz sensibilities stand him in good stead, allowing to make political points lightly as he sneaks his way into the audience’s confidence with an openness and bouncy, slightly camp, charm.

He has an airy self-assurance, calling his audience ‘Tezbians’ and cheekily referring to himself as a ‘legend’ and occasionally slipping into street slang, such as ‘on the regs’ for regularly, but with a cheery irony. Experiences of being part of an immigrant family from Pakistan, are set to music, as he retitles Blur’s hit as Paklife, while some of the questions everybody has about arranged marriage are addressed in a gameshow format.

For Ilyas was in such a union, and knows non-Muslims will be intrigued and probably misinformed. This is his way of cutting through both bigotry and any liberal guilt, while harvesting laughs from the ignorance, spoofing the audience into believing all manner of outrageousness.

Openness, he feels, is key, and he practises that; talking about his misplaced shame at coming from divorced parents, or his experiences of dating a white girl or performing hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca which could almost form the basis for a whole other show. Addressing incidents like the Charlie Hebdo massacre give the show extra relevance, and, skilfully, without killing the fun.

He doesn’t feel British society is heading the right direction, from the euphoria of the 2012 London Olympics – for which he helped make the security arrangements – to a 2016 Britain divided by the Brexit vote stoking racial tensions. This whole show was sparked by the comments from former Equality Commission chairman (and ‘absolutely not a legend’) Trevor Phillips that Muslims don’t integrate into British society.

With his engaging, friendly manner, Ilyas couldn’t integrate himself into his audience more with a show that’s pertinent, intelligent and playful.

Review date: 11 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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