Written and directed by BBC New Creative and award winning writer Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, Chop Chop is a short audio story recounting the happenings of an all female halal butchers. It questions the patriarchal tradition that Muslim women are confined to the kitchen at home while men are the faces of the halal industry, selling and preparing the meat on the shopfront. Tackling themes of gender, sexuality and religion in just over 20 minutes requires sharp scriptwriting – and D’souza-Lodhi delivers.
The opening scene begins with elderly shop owner Ameena slicing a pregnant cow open in the middle of her shop floor. Whilst Mariam (the shop’s second in command) is baffled by this action and hesitant to involve herself, Ameena is a real tour de force. She’s entrepreneurial, questioning and persistent when it comes to transforming her all-female shop.
With the help of a new apprentice, Tas, the women discuss rebranding the shop’s name – currently self-titled by Ameena’s former husband – to recognise its female ownership. The dialogue between the women from three different generations is playful and jocular; expect meat puns galore. D'souza-Lodhi masterly tackles the patriarchal hierarchy of halal meat through the comedic warmth and joke cracking banter of chatting colleagues.
Chop Chop situates women not only as essential to the ownership and manufacturing of halal meat but, more precisely, as the reinventors of what it means to work within this traditionally male dominated space. The shop is a hub for female intergenerational connection. It’s a place where progress is in action, and not just symbolically. For instance, as the new generation of female butchers, Tas is given the space to talk about her sexuality openly and without judgement in the shop. In fact, her colleagues are far more concerned with preparing the meat and dismiss Tas’ concerns with gentle and accepting ease.
There are welcoming nuances in the characters’ interpretation of the rebranding; Mariam is sceptical and initially unconvinced; Tas is absorbed with her phone; while Ameena is unwavering in her ambition. And yet, when a string of male visitors disrupts and threatens to dismantle their rebranding, it is their joint efforts that prevail in standing against the patriarchy.
D’souza-Lodhi satirically dissects deeply rooted misogyny through these visits, as the women come together to mock the male interrogators. Through humour, Chop Chop picks apart the male perspectives of the all female butchers, highlighting their unreasonable and unfounded assumptions. One food inspector even challenges the hygiene standards of the kitchen by suggesting that the women will spoil the meat by menstruating.
Yet this is not simply a light hearted comedy. Chop Chop takes a dark turn as the women revenge on the visitors that have oppressed them. D’souza-Lodhi chops, carves and re-portions ownership of the halal meat industry; this time, a little more fairly, with women at the centre.
We also interviewed Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, and you can read that interview here.
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