Imran Yusuf: Saint, Sinner, Sufi | Edinburgh Fringe review by Sophie Cartman
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Imran Yusuf: Saint, Sinner, Sufi

Note: This review is from 2018

Edinburgh Fringe review by Sophie Cartman

Imran Yusuf states he is a veteran comic, this we know because he tells us: ‘I’ve been doing this 13 years’. It is also obvious in the confident and passionate style evident from the first story about finding a frightening lump ‘down there’.

Yusuf gets the audience’s focus instantly, creating silence in the room as they listen intently. He has a knack for creating drama and truth within the comedy and evenly balancing his set with extensive dramatic stories that culminate in a short, sometimes cheap or juvenile gag, some more amusing than others.

His strong, open and charismatic nature gets the audience on his side. He doesn’t want to be seen as threatening, not least because he doesn’t want to feed society’s relentless racist prejudices. reassuring the audience that when it comes to brown people, ‘I’m one of the good ones.’

For those new to him, Yusuf sets out that Saint, Sinner, Sufi is going to cover racism, religion and right-wing views But it’s soon clear that the show is more than that, turning into an honest, autobiographical expression of his life and the advice he’s received.

It’s easy to tell Yusuf is extremely well-read in politics and world history. Indeed he brags: ’I read books.’ This could be interpreted as little patronising but we understand that's not his intention. He consistently drops nuggets of knowledge at such a speed, it is sometimes easy to miss what he’s said as you intellectually process his previous fact. It’s not a bad thing, he just requires the audience to keep up.

Yusuf has lived abroad and travelled the world, helping him put his life in perspective, as he realises that he has had it so much easier then plenty of other people in Third World countries. That seems obvious.  He also embarked on a psychedelic journey, with the hallucinogens he took to combat depression giving him powerful visions that allowed him to deal with harsh memories such as his difficult upbringing from his father.

It was great to hear his positive and passionate voice on what matters to him throughout his journey of life.  Yet Yusuf spent the majority of the set creating a slight distance from his audience, not always looking at them directly. It felt at times like a monologue delivered literally over the audience’s heads. Maybe if he made more eye contact, he could have kept everyone more captivated during long stories which need our utmost attention.

He closed full circle with his most physical bit demonstrating his experience at the doctor’s surgery, telling us about his examination and throwing in an unexpected wry gag about finding someone who would make him a suitable partner in his parents’ eyes.

Really, his main point is that he is grateful for his life so far, to have freedom of speech and to enjoy exploiting it. In that, Yusuf is an inspiration.

Review date: 4 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Sophie Cartman
Reviewed at: The Stand's New Town Theatre

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