Homicidal Pacifist by Sameena Zehra


With so many joke-bearing hawkers hanging about the Melbourne Town Hall this comedy fest, ready for subtle assault with their pamphlets, you never really know what you are signing up for.

Some of them will make you laugh until you cry, some may make you ask for your money back, and others yet will straddle the challenging spaces of ‘meh’ and ‘alright’ in between. But then there are those who make you feel like perhaps your conscience slipped out during the night and took on the unassuming form of a middle-aged brown woman, just to reflect the world back to you with honesty and wit.

Appropriately dubbed ‘Homicidal Pacifist’, Sameena Zehra’s offering to this year’s comedy festival accompanies the gradual but definite rise of this comedian to the world stage. Born in India, raised in the UK, and a lone atheist in a Muslim family, Zehra is they kind of comedian you don’t often come by.

Taking place at the modest theatrette of Little Sister on Little Collins, opening night saw a small group of audience members challenged with a most important hypothetical question: what to do about the human race?

With good-nature and a well thought-out process of elimination, off we went into the morally questionable and bureaucratically fraught process of resolving the hopeless absurdity of our world.

From the felt impact of political and religious extremism through to the ridiculous conclusions of media-backed sensationalism, Zehra carries us through an exploration of the various zeitgeists that govern the world we live in today, painting a nonsensical and downright corrupt picture of global relations. It is likely her awareness and understanding of these issues that got her a seat on the esteemed Q&A panel – an episode well-worth watching.

Amidst the politics, we hear numerous tales from her experiences both in the UK and in India, from punching bigots in the balls to discovering civilian casualties at her doorstep. Through these stories Zehra shares the part of herself that, like many of us, is trying to reconcile her own morality, compassion and non-violence, in the face of an increasingly dishonest and farcical society.

With ranty, fist-drawn, bug-eyed, enunciation and slapstick one-liners, Zehra humorously traces political tag lines to their ill-fated conclusions, whilst undressing the guise of ideology so persistently promoted by the mainstream of global politics. The revelations are so stark they can only be laughed at, creating a sense of shared solidarity amidst all the bad news. And although she admittedly ‘hates people’, this sense of common ground is the beauty of what Zehra’s words create. In fact, it is possibly such moments that allow for comedy to be a truly revolutionary medium; a subtle act of civil disobedience.

All of that said, I feel it is my literary duty to disclose that I am not an entirely impartial reviewer of Homicidal Pacifist. After seeing the show, I feel that my desperately barren cup of world-changing inspiration has been duly filled, and I cannot help but seek to use this as a platform to tell others that may feel like me, so here it goes: if by any chance you are tired of all the bullsh*t in the media, xenophobia in politics and bigotry in the streets, go and see this show and hear a fearless woman someone speak truth for 55 minutes. I promise you that you will come out refreshed, the bad taste of the stagnant and hopelessly backward rhetoric otherwise polluting our minds and our cities a mere joke.

4 stars

Nithya Iyer

Author: Nithya Iyer

Nithya Iyer is a Melbourne-based writer and performer of Indian-descent. Her work regards experimental and experiential arts practices in self-inquiry and connection to the Other. She has performed in experimental, roving and choreographed works in festivals and events across Victoria and New South Wales. Nithya has a background in Bharatanatayam from the Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy and is currently studying a Masters of Therapeutic Arts Practice at the Melbourne Institute of Experiential and Creative Art Therapy.