fri 08/12/2023

Ahir Shah, West End Centre, Aldershot review - a millennial's existential angst | reviews, news & interviews

Ahir Shah, West End Centre, Aldershot review - a millennial's existential angst

Ahir Shah, West End Centre, Aldershot review - a millennial's existential angst

Religion, politics - and vaping

Ahir Shah says he is searching for a new belief system

Ahir Shah has delivered some very good comedy by performing as a man who knows he is right about everything – that's what a political degree from Cambridge can do for you.

But now the comic, rightly lauded for his previous polemicist shows with two Edinburgh Comedy Awards nominations, is casting around for something other than old ideological certainties to believe in.

In Dots, which he debuted at last year's Edinburgh Fringe, Shah, 29, tells us that the past 18 months have been emotionally challenging for him, hence the search for a belief system that suits a millennial atheist of Hindu heritage. As a British-Asian, he finds himself caught between his parents' approach to life and the modern Western world he was born into.

But maybe they are closer than people think: he asks with a wry smile if there is any real difference between arranged marriages in his parents' homeland of India and believing that an algorithm can find the one for you by swiping right?

It's one of many segments that mix philosophy, politics and some neatly worked gags as Shah examines love, faith and depression – and the morality of vaping. Despite a more laidback approach than he has displayed in previous shows (perhaps explained by the sweet end note, updating us on his present emotional state), there's still a lot of bombast – Shah likes his audiences to know he's bright.

But there's a real sense of searching for answers rather than, as previously, a keenness to provide them. And in trying to understand how expectation and reality rarely meet in life unless you are very lucky, he delves into some personal history – the story of how his parents met, for example, is genuinely touching, while having a very funny codicil.

Shah talks about his irritation at being expected to opine for white audiences about being “a person of colour”. He hates the phrase, joking that white people have “managed to homogenise the experience of the vast majority of people on earth”. It’s exhausting, too, to always be expected to take sides in the never ending culture wars, and he would like to sit one out occasionally – although some may disagree with his reclaiming the word “Paki”, despite his breezy explanation of why he uses it liberally in his set.

The Edinburgh show was a tight hour but this touring set, at 100 minutes including an interval, feels overstretched, while some weak crowd work adds little to the evening. But he has a lovely turn of phrase and his version of existential angst is worth listening to.

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