Review: Eshaan Akbar: Prophet Like It's Hot at Gilded Balloon Teviot

Eshaan Akbar seems like a nice guy, and he’s got a nice guy’s show: gentle, sprinkled with plenty of laughs, and pleasant to sit through.

With his trusty copy of the Quran (Made Simple), he takes the audience through a tour of the basics of Islam and the ways in which it’s misunderstood by people within and without the religion.
Unfortunately for me, I had a prior knowledge of Islam, so the topics that Eshaan covers were dead ground for me. However, he picks his topics well for gags, and I can see most, if not all, of the material being fresh to people.
Unfortunately, it feels like a lot of the material is quite safe, in a sense. Akbar reads a few passages of the more uncomfortable variety, but he reacts to them as part of the audience, joining in the general liberal uneasiness, rather than confronting the audience with these things to then work the reaction into something more significant. When he convinces the audience to chant “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”), it’s uncomfortable, but also one of the most hilarious bits of the show. Likewise, the jokes about how, as a lapsed Muslim in a public forum, he presents a genuine target to groups such as Daesh (so-called Islamic State) are charged with tension, but funnier for it.
 The show as a whole works like that: Akbar establishes his ancestry (Pakistani father, Bangladeshi mother), but also his Britishness (private school educated, likes his pints and bacon sandwiches). He plays it well, discussing the difficulties and experiences of having such a mixed identity, but it also carries something of an attempt to ingratiate himself with the audience, attempting to downplay the differences, which would make for more interesting material.
The ending takes a more serious turn, with Akbar delving into why he’s no longer a practicing Muslim, and why he has his own perspective on the Quran and Islam. This is more nuanced, and while mostly somber, he breaks the tension brilliantly with some relatable anecdotes that really tie the whole show together.
Overall, if you’re expecting an in-depth, controversial look at Islam and the lives of Muslims, this doesn’t quite fit the bill. Otherwise, check it out for some good laughs and a hot tip on how to escape execution by terrorists.

Eshaan Akbar: Prophet Like It’s Hot, Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 26 Aug, 2.45pm 

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