Chill Habibi

A badly curated cabaret makes for a painful hour of Arab and Scottish performers.

★★
cabaret review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Chill Habibi
Published 12 Aug 2017

The best performers from the Arab world, interwoven with Scottish voices, could lead to an eclectic evening with unexpected collaborations and tantalising cross-cultural references. Or it could end up a boring mess. This show is the latter.

There is no overarching theme to this hour of seemingly random acts, nor quality control. There are singers who can’t sing, storytellers who can’t speak, and guitars that desperately need tuning.

A beautiful story about the post-revolution pain and fear of a pregnant women in Egypt is hard to follow because of the nervousness of the performer. Of course, a cabaret that has other guests every night will wildly vary. But curating a cabaret is a skill.

Poet Katherine McMahon saves the evening, with a hilarious poem in which her heart, the body part she loves the most, tries to comfort her above average sized belly with which she is less infatuated.

Ahmed Tobasi succeeds in annoying the crowd a little as he, quite painfully, exclaims: “This evening is called Chill Habibi – we should relax and have fun!” That’s quite impossible after being tortured with fifteen minutes of out-of-tune sea shanties. Tobasi’s monologue about growing up in the Palestinian territories starts interesting, but becomes a simple polemic.

The Middle East has beautiful and poignant stories to tell. But this might not be the place to hear them.