Leila Navabi @ Pleasance Courtyard

Leila Navabi's Edinburgh Fringe debut is a show of two halves: impishly whimsical and intensely confessional

Review by Yasmin Hackett | 17 Aug 2023
  • Leila Navabi

Leila Navabi didn’t necessarily want to do a show about race and racism. But, through a combination of forces outside of their own control, here we are.

Composition is a show of two halves. In the first, Navabi gives us a sense of who they are – that is, an impish (their words), queer, mixed race, Welsh comic with a flair for letting us laugh at them and making us laugh with them. Their musical storytelling is sometimes breathlessly funny, whether it’s songs about white passing sisters, falling in love at Claire’s Accessories, or simply, vegetables.

We transition from a cheek-achingly funny first half into an intensely confessional and contemplative second. Navabi, having established our impression of them, subverts what we think we know as they reveal their beginnings in comedy. Back in 2020, Navabi featured on Radio Wales at the tender age of twenty-one, where they suggested that Rishi Sunak looked like ‘Prince Charles in brownface’. It didn’t take long for their face to be plastered across the websites of The S*n and the D**ly M*il for a flippant comment that, were they white, would almost certainly go ignored. The state of the comment sections on those websites? Exactly how you’d imagine.

Navabi effectively lays the groundwork for this section as they weigh up all of their experiences in comedy to date and how, no matter what they do, they will always be othered and treated as such. Sometimes they just want to sing silly songs about people who own horses, instead of being pigeonholed into talking about race.

The calculated unravelling of the show is effective – but it does mean that some of the comedy loses its way. But that won’t matter too much as Navabi gets to grips with their audience and becomes more seasoned over time. Navabi certainly hasn’t had an easy road into comedy but hopefully they soon see that there are people who are excited to see all iterations of their emerging comic voice, impish or not.

Leila Navabi: Composition, Pleasance Courtyard (Attic), until 27 Aug, 9.45pm, £10-13