Nida Manzoor’s, We Are Lady Parts was first commissioned as just Lady Parts by C4 almost 3 years ago. Originally as a Comedy Blap (don’t ask, I guess everything has to be called something) a short 4 minute, three part mini pilot to encourage new writing talent and test ideas. Despite Lady Parts causing some social media comment when aired, C4 went ahead and commissioned a full series a year later. The result is a terrific, vibrant musical comedy that is very funny yet surprisingly touching. A commentary on second-generation cultural complexity and feminism.
We Are Lady Parts (WALP) is like a super-sized firework. Episode one starts by lighting the touch paper. Amina, (Anjana Vasan), a microbiology PhD student and part time guitar tutor, with sparkling eyes the size of saucers, is focussed on finding a husband and settling down. She meets with the traditional family of a prospective suitor. Flanked by her liberal parents the interview does not go well, as the young man’s family, far more religious than Amina’s mother and father, become increasingly alarmed at the apparent lack of religious dedication of the prospective in-laws. Amina’s mother, Seema (Shobu Kapoor) is particularly anxious that her daughter finds her true self rather than rushing into marriage.
We then meet the three rebellious band members of WALP and their niqab wearing ‘manager’, Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who seems to float around reminiscent of Cousin Itt whilst incessantly vaping. The three musicians, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), bass player Bisma (Faith Omole), drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) know that they need a lead guitarist to complete the band. Saira recalls that Amina, although no Slowhand, plays a mean lead guitar and sets about recruiting her into the fold. She enlists Ayesha’s brother Ahsan (Zaqi Ismail), whom Amina fancies, to ensnare her into auditioning for the band.
In an interview with Digital Spy, Nida Manzoor explained how the talented cast was assembled, “It was quite an extensive process. My casting director, Aisha Bywaters, was amazing. Because, as you said, it’s an ensemble piece, so we had chemistry reads. We wanted to see if the energies were right in the group, as well as can these actors land the comedy? The show lives or dies on: is it funny? Can they land the jokes? As well as the music.” She added, “I felt so, so lucky to find the cast that we did. They were so great in all aspects.”
Not luck, good judgement. The cast is outstanding. Not a weak link among them.
And so our firework explodes into vibrant life and burns brightly for five more episodes that are compulsively binge worthy viewing (WALP would have worked equally as well as 3 x 60). There are plenty of laughs along the way in Nida Manzoor’s excellent scripts in which the characters and the strength of their sisterhood are beautifully crafted. They play together, pray together and (spoiler alert) ultimately stay together.
Whilst dreaming of gigging they just about hold down day jobs. Saira, exorcises her latent anger by wielding a meat cleaver in an Halal butchers shop (which also doubles as their rehearsal room); Bisma, a talented artist sells (or rather , doesn’t sell) a self-produced gruesome, feminist comic called The Killing Period (You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Blood), in the local market; Ayesha drives a 20 year old Uber, whilst enduring taunts from her, mainly white, passengers. Momtaz runs a downmarket Victoria’s Secret type lingerie shop.
In episode one, on the way to publicising their auditions, they playout a Wayne’s World homage with a wild rendition of the Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). One of several conventional songs they ‘punk’ during the series. Most of the music however is original, written by Manzoor and her two siblings Shez Manzoor, who also scored the show, Sanya Manzoor and Benni Fregin. The lyrics of which are a release from built-up anger and frustration of the daily lives of the women. It is doubtful that many people outside generation z will be downloading the soundtrack unless they are nostalgic for a bygone age of The Sex Pistols. Those people, however should watch the programme, as it will undoubtedly change their stereotypical view of Muslim women, in particular.
We Are Lady Parts is the latest manifestation of the rise of refreshing female talent in TV comedy. Last month saw the premiere of Rose Matafeo’s ‘Starstruck’ (which was also a C4 Comedy Blap at the same time as WALP) and has been commissioned for a second series. Last week saw the launch of the very funny all female Today, Yesterday And The Day Before
There can be no doubt that We Are Lady Parts deserves a second series and more. I for one, can’t wait.