It is a rare delight to find stories about Muslim teenagers in theatre, especially one with so bold a title as 99% Halal. Shazia Ashraf’s play ignores tabloid frenzy and cultured beliefs to explore the bond between a boy and a girl wrestling with responsibilities and their use of social media.
Mez Galaria is on top form to play Zakia, who learns to assert her ambitions through her relationship with Ali, played by Ahmed Sher Zaman. Both artists demonstrate professional depth as their characters evolved emotionally and intellectually in their relationship.
The impact of social media in their lives is delivered by clever video shorts scripted by Shazia Ashraf and produced by Sid Ali Akbar. The stage management is provided by Uzma Kazi, tech management by Hannah Baxter-Gale and London DJ Shai Hussain sound design.
99% Halal highlights how some teenagers are ill equipped towards their career ambitions. It demonstrates how social media can deliver dreams, and if misused, can be quite devastating. Zakia dreams of getting married to Ali and moving away from home. Love proves strong and yet disappoints because Ali wants an easy life with all the material possessions his parents can afford him. Zakia and Ali are impervious to the reality of their responsibilities until the reality of their relationship begins to take root. In an age where political tensions create a spotlight of hostility for Muslims, exploring ordinary problems without stereotypes about British Muslim lives is refreshing.
There have been many voices from professionals raised at the lack of opportunities provided to creatives from minority backgrounds. This play demonstrates unrecognised talent – performers, creative artists and writers – who deserve a platform.
Reviewed by Ahmer Bashir on 17 December 2015 at Kala Sangam, Bradford.