(Note: All my reviews are from my personal blog, http://KoraKaos.wordpress.org )
I knew I wanted to see this show just because of the awesome promo pictures. I love having fun with religion.
Because of said personal preference, and the quality, this show was my favorite of the festival thus far. And did not theatre and religion begin as One in a beautiful celebration of life?
I approached Zehra Fazal after the show, at Bryan’s Bar, to compliment her and tell her how much I loved her show. I rarely do this on purpose- go out of my way to approach an artist and compliment him or her. I only do it if the art really touched me. I told her it was perfect. I told her that, as a Catholic, I feel the exact same way on the topics of which she spoke and sang. Topics included: Breaking “rules”, love of Allah, sex, prayer, ritual, homosexuality, acceptance, and so forth.
Zehra’s show was played as if she were the character “Zed Headscarf”, giving lectures to educate others on Islam, into which she inserted her fun folk-rock parodies. Islam is much misunderstood and she asks us to give it a chance, which is excellent. I think Islam is a beautiful religion. Okay, I think most religions are beautiful. I think they are all One, for we all celebrate the same One Reality. I think all mysticisms are the same mysticism, but only masked by sectarian theory and localized custom and traditions. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing. The variety is great. It’s only when tradition is utilized for “evil”- that is, that which is against the law of love- I would judge tradition as not beautiful. But that is only the fault of the individual enforcing said sad tradition, not the fault of the faith itself, which is pure and leads to the same truth as any faith.
As for Islam, as Zed said, a Muslim is “One who submits to God.” Submission to God is so sweet and lovely, though many who have not done so may disagree. In Islam, one has a relationship with Allah, the Unknowable. I love this premise Zehra uses of education on Islam- by making other humans more aware, Zehra is indeed performing well the mass heal spell upon society which theatre is intended to facilitate.
Zed explained to us Halal- that which is okay by Islam- and Haraam- that which is forbidden by Islam. Now, personally I would say that easily and of course means Halal is that which is loving and Haraam is that which is not- the same rule is found in any religion but only under different sectarian labels. However, many Imams would disagree with me. Said Imams would insist that old rules which were once in place to keep things loving (but that are no longer necessary to keep things loving) must be carefully observed. Or these Imams would insist that rules which have evolved to mean something different than before (which are now clearly interpreted as something which they were not when they began in oral tradition), which are now under their current interpretation not loving rules… must be observed. Whereas I should say there’s no reason. Some traditions such as Islam once put in place a rule not to eat pork because improperly cooked it causes sickness, even though we did not know about trichinosis back then. But priests had to make rules so that people wouldn’t die. Now we know about trichinosis and we know how to cook pork, so this rule is, well, moot if you like. Ahh, I AM HARAAM. Or am I? These men think so. Such is the nature of men who cling to labels past their expiration date, in any religious tradition. Yet many of us can see beyond these label-traps. Labels need not last forever and they do not make us bad people, just as they do not make Zed a bad Muslimah, as just watching her play will illustrate.
In the play, the Imams disapproved of Zed’s choices. They fired her from her lecture series after hearing some of her songs, which they judged as Haraam. But I do not think Zed to be Haraam, and I applaud her honest exploration of Islam and God. How many times have I myself been called heretic or false prophet? But Zed and I love Allah, and He loves us. The law of love is so much more simple than so many clerics would have the populace believe! Why yes, love and alcohol, love and sex, love and bacon are not mutually exclusive.
In Zed/Zehra’s songs, she describes her own way of experiencing life and Islam for comedic effect. Through this, she personalizes Islam and gives it a human face to which we can relate. For instance, in the very beginning, during her first lecture, she realizes that she has forgotten her Quran. She runs off to retrieve it and returns. She blows a great, giant cloud of dust off the book before speaking on it.
Zehra’s technique was quite good- she is a great singer and guitarist, and her comedic timing and acting are great too. I loved her parodies; they were great fun. Now, I told Zehra I thought her show to be perfect, but to be fully truthful, there was one thing I disliked- one of her songs was a parody of a Lady Gaga song, and I cannot stand to be witness to the sounds which the Princess of Banality creates. But that is, again, personal preference. And just as I enjoy Lady Gaga’s appearance, so too did I greatly enjoy Zehra’s costume during this song. It was a rainbow headscarf and a cape made of Pakistani and American flags. She reminded me so much of Joseph and his coat- one of my favorite stories in the Bible.
I may have let this review delve somewhat deeply into theology, but theatre is indeed intrinsically connected with the spiritual, and theatre is indeed intended to change society, and it gets us talking about religion. We need to do that. I think we need to do that without resorting to calling one another Haraam and Heretic and Oblivious and creating such schisms that we can no longer stand to speak with one another. Dionysos, ancient Greek God of Theatre, is also God of Other. We cannot look at Other and judge him as inhuman, so that we would feel no compuction in breaking the law of love against him. We know well in Fringe- Fringe! For Dionysos is God of Liminality- that we are all Other.
Once after a lot of martinis a lover’s sister thought it was a great time to tell me she thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with Catholicism (because some clerics in our number are rapists). Once after I’d just come out of the Pagan closet, I searched for others who love Dionysos as I do, and was so pleased to find an active worshipper. I wanted to make friends and share theological discussion cleric to cleric for both our improvements. Then I read him say he thinks there to be something fundamentally wrong with Islam (because some clerics in their number oppress women). I wished to discuss with him that all faiths are beautiful and lead to Truth, and that only individuals are insane assholes and insist on laws which are not of the law of love, because as I said, I want to share theological discussion openly with others for growth. This man labeled me oblivious, told me I spoke of unrelated tangents, and said he would block me from all communication. We have not spoken since.
I am a little sad that haters and assholes can be found in any religion, but what did I expect? At any rate, there is nothing wrong with Catholicism. There is nothing wrong with Islam. There is nothing wrong with Paganism. Many hate, yes, but the true faith is holy and beautiful, and you don’t have to pay attention to haters. Don’t believe what they say if that takes you off the path of a beautiful relationship with the divine. There are ways to be a true adherant. Through such sacred art as Zed kindly offers us, we may unite as one humanity rather than hate one another. I know theatre can save the world, and her play is just the sort which helps to accomplish this divine mission.
I wholeheartedly recommend this show.
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