The title reveals one half of Zahra Barri’s cultural background, she tells us the other half is Irish, and she draws on both for a set of East-meets-West, clash-of-cultures material here at Glasgow International Comedy Festival.
Identity, immigration and Islam are standard parts of the modern comedian’s armoury, but Barri owns her personal take, both in style and content.
She keeps things light. The messy business of politics doesn’t get much of a look in. This is more about leaping from cultural assumptions (Middle Eastern women are hairy) into everyday trifles (the mechanics of bikini waxing), with burqas and virgin-seeking suicide bombers encountered in passing.
Barri has Isy Suttie‘s smiley semi-awkwardness about her, which is instantly disarming. And today, her cat jumper, tartan skirt and hair-ribbon also conspire to give her an air of young innocence. Whether it’s a deliberate part of her shtick, or just what she threw on today, it’s hard to tell, but to some extent it’s complementary to her act, which involves a degree of wide-eyed bewilderment at the ways of the world.
She has no shortage of material. Her set-ups are quick, and the pay-off lines are plentiful. On some, though, she is still feeling for the right delivery. Sometimes she seems unsure where the laughs should hit, sometimes she’s flagged us to the punchline. As she checks her notes towards the end, she apologises and says she should have billed it as work-in-progress. In truth, it’s really not that far off finished, just needing more stage time. By the time she reaches the Three Sisters at the Fringe, it should be ship-shape.
In the meantime, she might usefully gen up a bit more for Scottish gigs. A wag in the audience says he’s from Middle Easterhouse (geddit?) At first it whooshes over her head, but she manages to dig herself out OK. She also seems to miss the irony of telling us people and cultures are “better together” in, of all places, the Yesbar. A gag or two baiting Scots on that point might have worked a treat. She could probably get away with it too.
Taking a megabus to Glasgow for a tiny, pay-what-you-want lunchtime slot is the sort of barmy dedication that deserves respect. But this run-out is definitely worth Barri’s trip, and bodes well for Edinburgh.