In the historic, underground chambers of Cabaret Voltaire waits Ahir Shah: a man who could not be more different to his surroundings. A self-confessed member of the liberal metropolitan elite, Shah is bitter that he hasn’t gained the wealth and power that the Daily Mail promised. This sets the tone for an hour of witty, politically focused observations.
Shah uses evocative allegories and extended metaphors to swipe at both extremes of the political spectrum, deconstructing the oversimplifications of which all parties are guilty. It is to his merit that Shah manages to confront some of society’s most striking problems in a smart and powerful way, whilst still being able to elicit a laugh from the audience. The accessibility of his comedy (to an audience attuned to Western political developments, at least) aids this. Despite his confidence and ideological focus, Shah manages not to put himself on a pedestal. Much. He is able to poke fun at himself, and avoids pontificating.
The relentless speed with which Shah performs is impressive. His intensely passionate delivery keeps the audience buzzing from the first joke to the last. That being said, Shah’s energy can occasionally work against him, sometimes delivering his most satirical jokes so quickly that the audience struggle to process them before he moves onto new material.
At Fringe, it is common to hear variations on the predictable theme of political jokes about Scotland. However interestingly enough Shah eschews this path, having little material aimed at an audience from Edinburgh. This is a refreshing approach for a political comedian plus, as Shah himself points out, not necessarily a flaw amongst the theatre-going crowds in August.
Shah’s view of the world is cheerily pessimistic. Arguably the only way to respond to the aftermath of 2016. His reflections on society both entertain and lead to poignant moments. It is rare that a comedian can make an audience leave both upbeat, and angry with current affairs. Though the shining institutions of the world might be crashing down around us, we can be grateful that Ahir Shah is here to keep us smiling.