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Bilal Zafar: CARE – Underbelly Bristo Square

A confession: I was personally interested in seeing Bilal Zafar’s show as I wanted to hear about his experiences in a care home. I worked in the care sector from September 2020 to March 2022, not in a care home but visiting people in their own homes and helping out with personal care, companionship, preparing meals and getting the ironing board out (and using it). It was, in the end, all about the bottom line, with the emphasis on providing excellent standards of care because it would generate repeat business and more ‘clients’ would want to cough up, largely through word of mouth. It works, however, just as it would in any other sector – good customer service equals happy customers equals loyal customers.

Bilal Zafar
Bilal Zafar

One of the main reasons for me not wanting to work in a care home was that, put simply, I’d have to do a lot more work for a lot less pay. As a fairly impressionable university graduate, however, Zafar was attracted by a ‘no experience required’ advertisement – and as he failed to say anything ridiculous or incriminating at the interview, he was duly welcomed on board. Paying £6.50 an hour – minimum wage at the time – he was tasked with encouraging short-term residents to stay for longer and by ‘longer’ what management really meant was ‘permanently’. The incentive for Zafar and his colleagues wasn’t monetary, but involved a team activity Zafar had zero appetite for participating in.

Before getting into the main storyline, there are some initial stories about his own family, and increasingly threatening letters from an energy company demanding immediate payment of zero pounds – the bizarre case was even passed to a debt collection agency. I liked a story about his stint at jury service, in which there was a two-day trial for (wait for it) a man who was accused of attempting to redeem fake vouchers. As far as the care home was concerned, there are plenty of anecdotes about what went on, particularly about Barry, one of the residents to whom Zafar was assigned.

There were some digressions into how good the audience was at the performance I attended: does he tell every audience this, in the way Sir Bruce Forsyth used to tell every couple, “You’re my favourite” on Strictly Come Dancing? Perhaps not – Zafar recounted the time earlier in the Fringe when a national newspaper gave him a positive review, and its apparently humourless readers came to see the show for themselves the following day, proof (if true) that a full house can sometimes mean a tough crowd. Even other comedians come under criticism – even front row patrons are safe from being spoken to at length – he doesn’t feel the need to do that, because, he beams, “I have material”. Oh, and the eyebrow movements are worth the price of a ticket alone. An engaging and enlightening performance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

As seen/heard on his very successful Twitch channel, BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4 and BBC Radio, the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Awards Best Newcomer nominee and New Act of the Year (NATYS) award winner, Bilal Zafar returns with a brand-new show about how he spent a year working in a care home for very wealthy people.

Bilal Zafar: CARE
Underbelly: Jersey
3rd – 25th August 2022

Social media links:
Twitter: @Zafarcakes
Instagram: @Zafarcakes_
TikTok: @Zafarcakes
Website link: BilalZafarComedy.com

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