tue 21/09/2021

We Are Lady Parts, Channel 4 review - female Muslim punk band rocks the house | reviews, news & interviews

We Are Lady Parts, Channel 4 review - female Muslim punk band rocks the house

We Are Lady Parts, Channel 4 review - female Muslim punk band rocks the house

Nida Manzoor's smart sitcom breaks new ground

Lady Parts - Bisma, Ayesha, Amina, Momtaz (the manager) and Saira

It’s crazy, but could it possibly work? Writer Nida Manzoor (a veteran of Doctor Who and BBC Three’s sitcom Enterprice) grew up in a Muslim family, but that didn’t stop her being a fan of punk rock, Blackadder and This Is Spinal Tap.

She also writes songs, so creating a sitcom about the female Muslim punk band Lady Parts wasn’t quite such a stretch as it might seem.

Her smartest trick here, though, is to have used the device of the band to cast a wry and hilarious eye over not just Muslim life but common preconceptions of it, and its complicated interactions with the secular West (it’s not all about honour killings, arranged marriages and jihadists, though Manzoor has managed to squeeze in jokes about all three).

But just writing that makes We Are Lady Parts sound like some kind of finger-pointing tract, which happily it isn’t. The story is narrated by Amina (Anjana Vasan), a rather prim and self-effacing 26-year-old who’s studying for a PhD in microbiology. Her musical tastes run to antique singer-songwriters such as Don McLean and Janis Ian, and in her spare time she teaches acoustic guitar to local kids.

In her bedroom, decorated in pastel pinks and aquamarine, she dreams of a fulfilling marriage to a perfect husband, but so far it’s not happening, as a painful audition with a severely devout suitor and his unsmiling parents illustrates. Amina’s mother, at least, is able to view the institution of marriage with a sceptical eye. “I threw away my youth on a good-for-nothing man child,” she grumbles, as her husband loafs on the sofa nearby.

Amina’s introduction to the world of Lady Parts arrives by accident, as she accepts a leaflet from the handsome Ahsan as she’s walking in the park. While swooning over Ahsan’s romantic potential, she belatedly notices that the leaflet is an advert for a lead guitarist for the band, so she rushes to the audition to try to find Ahsan. He’s not there, but his ferocious sister Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) is the drummer. Vocalist Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) recognises Amina from school, where she heard her play guitar. They hang a Fender guitar round her neck and ask her to play something, but Amina suffers from crippling stage fright and rushes hysterically out of the room.

You’ll have to wait until episode 2 before the demure Amina finally gets plugged in with the band, a transformative experience since Lady Parts seem to be channelling Seventies-style radical feminism. Bass player Bisma (Faith Omole) is the author of cartoon strip Period (Apocalypse Vag), about “a group of young women who all become homicidal maniacs when they’re on their period”, while Saira likes to deliver mini-manifestos like “we don’t seek fame, we simply seek to speak our truth before it’s mangled by other people’s bullshit ideas of us.” Ayesha merely radiates all-purpose misanthropy. Despite it all, Manzoor’s ironic touch makes them strangely likeable. The songs, written by Manzoor with her brother and sister, are pretty good too. And loud.

Amina dreams of a fulfilling marriage to a perfect husband, but so far it’s not happening

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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