Ahir Shah effortlessly, and somewhat cheekily, blends together a powerful political message with his intensely personal experiences of life to create a show which is both deeply moving and quietly uplifting. He touches on a range of topics such as the Windrush scandal, problematic mental health and family relationships from a profoundly sensitive comic perspective, providing a non-judgmental, well-observed commentary on modern life.
The show is a memorial to his beloved grandmother and tells the story of her deportation from the UK by the Major government and his difficult reunion with her as an adult in India. He gives the impression of a family traumatically and unnecessarily separated by a bureaucratic system that refused to recognise the complexities of human life. The current relevance of his family’s experiences with immigration law and a fundamental lack of understanding from the Home Office is poignant and deserves serious contemplation in Britain’s current political climate.
Shah goes on to discuss his personal mental health and, specifically, his experiences with coming off anti-depressants. But by approaching the topic in a way which proposes struggling with mental health as a collective experience for all human beings he chips away at a dangerous stigma and reaches out to his audience. His visualisation of coping mechanisms for the hardships of life, whether they be medication or religion, as necessary and valid is equal parts touching and hilarious.
Like all great comedians, this ability to give the topics of his discussion a sense of universality is finely honed. This permits him to connect with his audience on an emotional level which, whilst somewhat unexpected in a comedy gig, allows him to use his platform to encourage his own brand of social cohesion and understanding. It is a comedy that examines grief, pain and the unanswerable questions of life but rather than wallowing in them he wittily deconstructs their root cause and highlights the small, incongruous moments of farce that lie amongst the most difficult and yet fundamental moments of human experience.
Whether or not 8-year-old Ahir Shah is the true writer of Bohemian Rhapsody, he is certainly the intelligent driving force behind a show which both asks you to examine your own moral position and quietly educates you. And one which will leave you with an overwhelming desire to both make yourself emotionally available to your loved ones and to become a sparrow in your next life.
Ahir Shah, ‘Duffer’ 4/5 *
See tickets here.