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Haydar’s gaydar

Alp Haydar's 'one-man pantomime' reveals the life of his mother, Sharia Law

Being gay and coming from a religious household can be fraught with difficulties. Alp Haydar was brought up in a Muslim Turkish Cypriot home in Palmers Green and draws on the experience to examine the complex relationship between homosexuality and Islam in a series of episodic shows at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

‘I wouldn’t call my shows a critique of Islam,’ says Haydar, who uses a mixture of video work and live performance. ‘I’m from a Muslim background, so inevitably there are a lot of cultural references. Conservative family members spewing religious rhetoric all provide a fun backdrop for my comedy, and, however un-PC, I think it’s healthy to be able to laugh at things and have a dialogue.’

Haydar’s next show explores his relationship with his mother, a character he has cheekily called ‘Sharia Law’. ‘Her reactions have been hurtful and absurd,’ says Haydar, on coming out to his mother, ‘but also borderline comedic -– screaming, “Were you raped?”’

It’s what Haydar calls the ‘high-camp’ quality of these responses that has helped cement the character. The new show looks back at the life of ‘Sharia Law’ and asks if she was always so anti-gay.

At a time when many people are reluctant to question Islam for fear of being called racist, it is hardly surprising that Haydar’s work has been greeted with a mixed response. How does he feel about this? ‘I believe it’s well within my rights to talk about my origins in my work,’ he says unequivocally. ‘Society is consumed with panic over discrimination. I didn’t choose to be gay, but if you choose to subscribe to an all-powerful sky-god, then own the ideas you’re going to subscribe to and be prepared to have them questioned. I find it a little hollow to pick and choose certain things you can digest in a religion, while ignoring so much else. As a gay man, I can’t subscribe to this enlightening spiritual belief system and then also to my own damnation – I find that paradoxical.’

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