Prague Fringe 2016
Born a Muslim but currently not so much, Sajeela Kershi relates her experiences as a woman whose family is as crazy as (but definitely bigger than) almost anyone else’s.
If you want to get people talking, put the issues of religion and politics before them. Stand-up comedian Sajeela Kershi, who has Pakistani roots and hails from a Muslim family in the United Kingdom, takes up the thorny issue of religion and lets her mouth run many miles with it at the speed of a 100-metre dash.
The first joke, which raises the possibility of organising a Gay Pride parade in Kabul, immediately hooks the non-Muslim audience and underscores Kershi’s playfulness amid the serious concerns that religion inevitably raises. Her own religious views appear to register somewhere in the grey area around agnostic, perhaps like the majority of her (mostly) secular audience, which makes sympathy with her doubts, cherry-picking of religious tenets to follow and tongue-in-cheek “search for loopholes” incredibly easy.
Besides her rapid-fire witticisms and insightful commentary, heavy topics like terrorism and the Charlie Hebdo attack are also seen from a slightly more personal point of view, as she conveys her frustration that such crimes are being committed in the name of any religion. In fact, at various points her anger at the current state of affairs is impossible to ignore, and naturally these feelings provide another point of contact with the audience.
But a story about a family member abducted in Pakistan takes unexpectedly hilarious turns and will have the audience in stitches when it tries to imagine the scene of Kershi’s aunt refusing to speak to inexperienced and wholly inept wannabe terrorist kidnappers.
Throughout her routine, she involves the audience by asking them for a show of hands and prodding them on issues ranging from their own religion to their views on Bond as a religious figure.
Although the show plays it way too safe, “Shallow Halal” does manage to give a glimpse of the life of an individual who is asked to represent her original religion so often that the tragedy has become – luckily for the audience, though likely not for her nor the more than 1 billion people like her – comical.