Edinburgh Fringe Review: Bilal Zafar, Just The Tonic at The Mash House

Comedy about cakes takes the biscuit! As a journalist who loves a good headline it would be lovely if Bilal Zafar’s debut Edinburgh show Cakes won an award, but while it is great I'm not sure if it is great enough compared to a lot of other strong shows on the Fringe.

Zafar won the New Act of the Year Award earlier this year with a short routine which forms the basis of this set. As a joke his brother tweeted that Bilal aka @zafarcakes was running a muslims-only cake shop in Bristol. This was all it took to prompt a Twitter storm from, I suspect, the kind of right wing idiots who voted for Brexit thinking that immigrants would all be turned away at Heathrow Airport starting on June 24. And, of course, the East Londoner actually doesn't run any kind of cake shop anywhere.

Despite the potentially scary subject matter Zafar has no difficulty whatsoever finding the funny side of the story as he flashes Twitter conversations up on the screen. I won’t spoil it for you but needless to say their responses are largely actually more hilarious than sinister. 

There is also a certain charm to the way he cannot resist provoking them and teasing them - offering discounted cakes or special deals to people who are calling for a boycott of his non-existent shop. In another nice touch he misspells words badly just to wind them up even further and give them the idea that his English is rudimentary.

It’s all very playful and there is also, of course, an undertow of seriousness about this, touching on recent anti-muslim feeling in certain quarters in the UK. Zafar never gets angry though, his style is low-key, at times almost too low-key.

This is the kind of multi-media mockumentary approach that has been done before - there are definite hints of Dave Gorman here, though I'm sure this is coincidental - but Zafar constructs his piece beautifully. It maybe loses a bit of steam and the Q&A on the day I was in didn’t really add anything, but there is a beautiful final pay-off that neatly ties everything together.

Until Aug 28. Tickets here.


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