Why you should be watching We Are Lady Parts
Ivan Radford | On 06, Jun 2021
“One part boredom, two parts identity crisis.” That’s how Lady Parts is described in the opening episode of We Are Lady Parts, Channel 4’s new comedy series that immediately announces itself one of the best TV shows of the year.
It follows Amina (Anjana Vasan), a 26-year-old microbiology student who wants nothing more than to find herself a nice Muslim husband. We meet her as her parents introduce her to a potential spouse, with the boy’s family proving notably more conservative than hers – while she is pretending not to play guitar or daydream about him with his top off, they’re busy trying to convince her to go inter-railing rather than settle down. In other words, this isn’t the comedy you’re expecting – East Is East this ain’t.
While Amina’s searching for a fella, Lady Parts – the punk rock band of the show’s title – is searching for a new guitarist. When Amina is handed an audition leaflet by Ahsan (Zaqi Ismail), the handsome brother of drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), they all wind up with the perfect match they weren’t planning for. Not, of course, that Amina realises it at first – she’s prone to sweating, vomiting and freezing whenever on stage, something that doesn’t exactly make her a natural pop star. Then again, Lady Parts (in case their name didn’t give it away) have no interest in being natural pop stars. They sing songs like Nobody’s Gonna Honour Kill My Sister But Me and Voldemort Under My Head Scarf, as loudly and brashly as possible.
If there’s fun to be found in the band’s witty lyrics, that just establishes the rhythm for the rest of the show, which revels in the joy of simply showing these young Muslim women as actual people, rather than characters defined by stereotypes. Anjana Vasan is wonderful as the anxious Amina, trying to work out what she wants as much as she’s trying to find a way not to throw up behind the mic. Sarah Kameela Impey is fantastic as the fiercely creative frontwoman Saira, who has no qualms about working in a butcher but is wary of committing to her boyfriend. Faith Omole is amusing as bassist Bisma who spends her spare time creating a comic book described “Handmaid’s Tale meets Rugrats”. And, while Juliette Motamed’s Ayesha puts up with entitled passengers as she works part-time driving an Uber, completing the likeable troupe is Lucie Shorthouse’s manager Momtaz, who wears a niqab but vapes through it constantly.
Whether they’re debating how shocking to make their lyrics, praying or rocking out to The Proclaimers in a car, they’re all complicated, real and surprising screen presences. Writer, director and producer Nida Manzoor (who helmed Doctor Who’s entertaining Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror and several episodes of BBC Three’s energetic comedy Enterprice) mixes them all together at a beat all her own, capturing the humour, frustration, conflict, desire and absurdity of growing up. The result is something like Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, the 2013 Swedish comedy about an all-girl punk band that finds similar joy in simply watching young people finding and expressing themselves by rebelling.
By rooting the series in these characters’ specific and nuanced experiences, there’s a subversive flourish to the way the series breaks out of TV’s conventions to become something unapologetically light-hearted – and that also makes it a comedy destined to find deserved mainstream success. Its band members might be going through identity crises, but this is a series that from the very first frame knows exactly what it is, and you won’t ever be bored.
We Are Lady Parts is available on All 4.