Second Generation: Integrated, a sketch show presenting the experiences of second-generation immigrants, immediately sets a sharp, uncompromising tone, directing the audience to the emergency exits in case they find any of the jokes ‘too ethnic for a Cambridge audience’.
This joke, delivered lightly, has a more serious undertone: the cast (Imane Bou-Saboun, Zaynab Ahmed, Fatima Eshani and Seth Daood) are not going to shy away from sharing truths about being from a minority ethnic background, especially in a university where these voices are so shockingly unrepresented.
Despite this serious message, the show is both funny and uplifting – it was striking how wide the audience’s smiles were when leaving the theatre. The sketches include well-known Asian-parent stereotypes, exaggerating situations to a comic degree, such as when a son (Seth Daood) is told he has ‘brought shame upon his family’ for choosing to study ASNaC instead of medicine. These sketches are often delivered in a completely deadpan way which makes the situations more ridiculous.
The cast is also not afraid to make fun of whole social groups – while they satirise some Asian parents’ more traditional views and the use of the ‘race card’, represented by a large sign which is ceremoniously carried across the stage, they are also brutally funny in their criticism of some white British people’s ignorance shown towards minority groups. There is a particularly brilliant sketch in which a white person (Bou-Saboun) panics as she is given simple names like ‘Omar’ and ‘Amal’ and asked to pronounce them (she attempts ‘Homer’ and ‘Molly’). These sketches are skilfully done in that they are not offensive, yet still shine light on some deep problems in British society and attitudes towards minorities.
The highlight of this show is seeing how the cast works together.
Once or twice there was a forgotten line, but the actors were quick to help each other out and keep the pace going, which had the added benefit of making the show seem spontaneous. The ensemble moments, such as the rap battle between two mothers comparing their sons’ achievements, or an unexpected Bollywood number at the end, really bring the show to life with an energy that contrasts well with the quieter or more sarcastic sketches.
This show is light-hearted, truthful and offers something for everybody, sharing the experience of growing up while balancing two cultures, and treating us to both harsh truths and laugh-out-loud moments along the way.