The Patrick Centre

Birmingham Hippodrome


As an introduction to Birmingham’s shout festival, celebrating queer arts and culture within the city, Mawaan Rizwan performs his one-man stand-up show, Juice. It presents the Gay-Asian experience whilst talking about accidently making his family famous.

Juice is an autobiographical piece, displaying the genres of stand-up, physical performance and gender/queer theory analysis, in a show of becoming selflessly confident and ultimately comfortable within his own skin. Juice is Rizwan’s personal story, cultivating the universal message of embracing yourself, with every added flaw.

Rizwan is very much a comedy performer, and as a result, we see a practice of great emotional timing. His physicality is used to make us howl with laughter, and his conversational approach tells us of everyday stories.

He creates a sense of trust to make a comfortable environment. His light-hearted script is supplemented with larger than life dance sequences with interludes of performance poetry and song. Rizwan also creates an interesting emotional pendulum, swinging back to raw and vulnerable accounts to reveal the parts of his personality which are particularly hard to dwell upon, such as telling his parents about his love for another person and therefore revealing his sexuality.

Through the journey of self-discovery and working through hard emotional barriers, the result is that Rizwan is colourful, funny and totally unapologetic. His confidence is infectious, and Juice certainly has the power to make the audience feel good. As his mother said, ‘when life gives you mangoes, make mango juice’. Rizwan makes it clear that it has taken a lot of work to get there.

It is encouraging to see that within Rizwan’s new-age style of comedy, he is inherently brave to tell us about his personal process in order to present the show today. Rizwan is in fact a YouTube sensation, and one video he had made about walking encouraged thousands of hits. He also filmed family members, to the point where producers from a famous Indian soap discovered his mother, and she is now a famous Bollywood actor. Once more, his younger brother, who was featured rapping with Rizwan in a comedic video is now cast in a prime-time BBC drama.

As proud as Rizwanis, his emotional journey means that he is not afraid to embrace, and own feelings of jealousy, saying in his own words that his family ‘stole the thunder’. It is a brave statement which allows the audience to see a work in progress. Rizwan is a person reflected on stage who is actively coming to terms with the highs and lows of personal growth and ambition.

The account of his now famous family makes way for some deeply vulnerable moments within the journey of self-discovery throughout his piece. But we must also remember that Rizwan is first and foremost a comedian. He presents his journey against a backdrop of colourful language and visual choreographed movements, alongside the pumping tunes to Missy Elliott. In a spectacularly energetic dance sequence, we see Rizwan strip from a sparkly green tracksuit to reveal a skirt and bra made entirely of socks, aptly dancing along to ‘sock it to me’.

As well as being the catalyst for the success of his family, Rizwan also has an impressive history. Featured on BBC Radio One’s Asian Network and being acclaimed in at Edinburgh Fringe, he is a man of many talents. Juice questions the norms of society and analyses gender and sexuality, questioning how much is influenced by the cultures we come from. As the audience see Rizwan’s discovery, we also hear about the past of his own family members, and that their experiences are not too dissimilar to that of his own.

Rizwan’s bold characteristics and interesting life story encourages the audience to accept their own quirks, and to embrace the things that make themselves vulnerable too. Juice is a show about stripping all emotional layers back, and Rizwan does it whilst connecting positively with the audience. In a friendly manner and funny visual concept, Rizwan gives people hope to embrace the elements of their own personality which are sometimes hard to look at, in order to be totally unashamed to be only you alone.

Elizabeth Halpin


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