Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Ahir Shah: Distant, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson.
Still only 24 but a stand-up circuit veteran and jaded cynic to boot, Ahir Shah is emerging as a potent and articulate comic voice, the depth of his thoughts matched by his anguished expressiveness conveying them. An underlying cause of his distemper is his decision to quit smoking but with typical irony, it’s his effort to do the right thing that actually causes him more torment.
An over-educated, self-hating Leftie, Shah projects his impotence and frustrations as the struggles of a generation, expanding the personal to the political and historical with knowing grandiloquence, a moment of revelation in his local Co-op prompting a very funny vision of conscientious slavery. Willing to show himself in a bad light, he could comes across as smug were it not for his eagerness to prick his own pomposity and the misconceptions others attach to him, conclusion jumping allowing him to turn his ethnicity and others’ post-colonial guilt craftily to his advantage.
Unabashed about a silly set-piece, as when the distance between vegetarianism and veganism inspires a filthily crude farmyard mime, he won’t shrink from polemic either – reflecting with damning finality on the mindset of wannabe Isis brides and firmly laying out his case for Western decadence in all its slothful grossness.
Both are combined in a superb dialogue about man-made climate instigated by a couple of pandas. Accruing in both momentum and intellectual clout as the show develops, Shah reflects on the recent general election and widening gap between rich and poor with sharp, savvy insight that extends beyond his gut distrust of Tories.
What’s more, Distant concludes with a stunning, all-encompassing romp through global politics that is also a heartfelt declaration of love.
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House (Venue 170) until 30 August / listings