Bilal Zafar @ Just the Tonic, The Mash House

Best Newcomer award nominee Bilal Zafar's debut takes the cake

Review by Ben Venables | 26 Aug 2016
  • Bilal Zafar

Earlier this year, Bilal Zafar won the NATYS – the former Hackney Empire comedian of the Year – which, perhaps most famously, helped launch Stewart Lee's career. His ten minute set on that day now forms the basis of his Fringe debut. It's a tale of social media outrage about a 'Muslim-only' bakery from Bristol. The proprietor of this bakery does not actually exist, but that doesn't stop Zafar – assigned the role by his brother via a joke on Twitter – from seeming to wind up every Islamophope and cake hater on Twitter. 

After his brilliant performance in the NATYS, the worry was the ten minute punch he displayed might become elongated in the much longer Edinburgh format. That's not the case – as the innocent Twitter joke between two brothers goes too far, and is taken to ever greater extremes, this journey becomes more contextual and nuanced with the help of a multimedia presentation. There is a touch of padding with a Q&A, but Zafar really delivers on the absurdity of an escalating social media farce running in parallel with growing prejudice and tensions, joyously exposing the stupidity on all sides.

It's a little like some of James Veitch's recent shows, where he trolled the trolls by taking on spammers, and Zafar's commitment and impishness also resembles Robin Cooper's The Timewaster's Letters. His brother is important too, for that's where it all started, and there's a touch of a sibling rivalry in Zafar's particular penchant for winding people up – a tactic of lethal potency when used against those already choking up on their own prejudiced views.

Bilal Zafar: Cakes, Just the Tonic at The Mash House (Just The Attic), 4-28 Aug (not 15), 3:40 pm, £4/PWYW.