May 27 2014
One of the most daring programmes of all in the Alchemy Festival was…wait for it…an all-female line of comedians and story-tellers. It proved to be an amazing experience for all…
By Chayya Syal
WE ARE CURRENTLY living in a politically charged environment where terms such as unemployment, immigration and ethnic minority are more explosive than a barrel of gunpowder next to a box of lighters. What better way to counter such a tense atmosphere than with a bit of comedy?
Ticket in tow, I headed down to London’s Southbank Centre to watch the “Immigrant Diaries“; one of many shows and events that form a part of Alchemy – a festival that celebrates South Asian, British Asian culture and the bit in between both!
Usually, I find myself cringing or wanting to curl up in a ball when I see a fellow South Asian on stage or on television. I usually utter the prayer of: “Don’t embarrass us, please don’t embarrass us” but “The Immigrant Diaries” was a far cry from this.
The event was split into two halves. The first half featured Shobu Kapoor (pictured above 3rd left), Shyama Perera (1st left), Juliet Meyers (4th left) and our host Sajeela Kershi (2nd left), each told stories of their own British immigrant experience.
It made you laugh, feel emotional and put you into deep thought all at once, as all four spoke of what life was really like being an immigrant or being brought up by immigrant parents.
My favourite quote of the night was: “Immigrants keep British culture alive, because they desperately want to ‘fit in’ with British life. Events like Christmas, are an immigrant family’s dream come true – it’s a chance for them to try and ‘fit in’ with their fellow neighbours and have something in common,” declared Kershi.
All four stories were poignant and I found myself (and saw many audience members) nodding along and awkwardly recounting similar experiences from school and everyday life – from the horrors of ‘Diversity Week’ to questions such as: “What are you?” and “Where are you really from?”
It was nothing like I’d known: an all female comedian troupe who were confident, intelligent, inspiring and empowering yet original.
The audience were extremely engaged and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They came from all backgrounds, all walks of life and different ethnicities; a true cross section of what London and Great Britain is.
The second half moved onto stand-up comedy – this featured some extraordinary talent from all corners of the UK from Glasgow, Bradford and Coventry down to London.
All four female stand-up comedians were witty, succinct, and came with their own individual style of comedy that made some members of the audience (mainly me) laugh so much that they should have ended up with a six-pack by the end of the night.
It was a truly unforgettable night (May 16) and one that has left me feeling an immense sense of pride, inspiration and encouragement.
These female comedians are trail blazers and I felt so encouraged to see women, of a similar background to me, on stage and confidently expressing themselves in a humorous and intelligent manner.
ACV rating: ***** (out of five!)
Host: Sajeela Kershi, Writer/Actress/Comedian – @SajeelaKershi
Talent: Shobu Kapoor, Actress/ Citizen Khan/EastEnders – @Shokap
Shyama Perera,Writer/Broadcaster – @PortfolioWoman
Juliet Meyers, Comedian/Writer for BBC Comedy – @JulietMeyers
Stella Graham, Stand up Comedian – @StellaGraham
Isma Almas, Stand up Comedian – @IsmaAlmas
Bas Rahman, Stand up Comedian – @BasRahman1987
Ayesha Hazarika, Stand up Comedian – @AyeshaHazarika