thu 18/07/2024

Nish Kumar, Soho Theatre review - how a bad gig turned into a terrific show | reviews, news & interviews

Nish Kumar, Soho Theatre review - how a bad gig turned into a terrific show

Nish Kumar, Soho Theatre review - how a bad gig turned into a terrific show

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Kumar starts with a barnstorming 15 minutes of political comedyMatt Stronge

Nish Kumar comes on stage raring to go, and delivers 15 minutes of terrific political comedy that expertly skewers the Government and this country's leader “spraying jizz over us”. It's a barnstorming start to the show and worth the price of admission alone.

Kumar can't quite maintain the energy or the rhythm of that first quarter of an hour, but most – although not all – of what follows is worth listening to. At the centre of Your Power, Your Control is a lengthy tale about the comic's appearance at a Lord's Taverners charity lunch in 2019 that went seriously pear-shaped. It's a story many will be familiar with but Kumar breaks down what actually happened (as opposed to tabloid renditions of it) and the lasting effect it had on him and his mental health.

At first sight the story seems innocuous enough – lefty Remainer takes the mick out of pale, male and stale old buffers, and one of the “pre-gout” audience (no doubt fondly remembering his days at public school) throws a bread roll at him. As members of previous generations of comics might have pointed out, they had worse thrown at them, liquids and solids, over the years.

But the press coverage led to racist death threats, and the shock of what happened in that room led to Kumar to, for the first time, deal with his mental health and the reality of having brown skin in a country where a lot of people still begin sentences with “I'm not a racist but...”

The show sets what was a lowpoint in Kumar's life and career into a broader context, allowing him to delve into a host of other subjects – racism, obviously, but also the effects of an empire state of mind, climate change and mental health. As to the last mentioned; the irony of a comic who has done loads of charity gigs for male mental health while not taking care of his own is not lost on Kumar, and it's part of perhaps his most personally revealing show to date.

It's rarely serious or downbeat, though, as Kumar keeps the gag ratio high. And he has a nice line in self-mockery and faux bombast, informing us he's the best of his generation – before brilliantly undercutting the boast by acknowledging that it's all comparative. Oh, and there's a brilliant bit of prop comedy too...

Your Power, Your Control is delivered in Kumar's trademark passionate, sweary style, at breakneck speed; he says he has never taken cocaine and it's easy to see why. There's the occasional misstep – a section on national anthems feels like filler – but overall this is a terrific show.


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