For political comedians, the results of the Brexit vote, the American presidential election and the snap general election may have given them a lot of material, but also a lot to ponder. For years, they have been performing jokes about the absurdity of voting Leave, Trump and Tory and yet all three have come to pass. A theme of many comedians of this ilk has been to look inward and to look at why the results turned out the way they did and how to try and find their way out of the intellectual silos in which their material has only echoed to people of similar thinking. Edinburgh Fringe stalwart Ahir Shah is one of the many comedians puzzling about the situation in which we have ended up and what are the solutions. Nominated for Best Show this year in Edinburgh, Shah brings his one man show Control to the Soho Theatre.
One of the endearing aspects of Shah as a performer is that he is smart, wickedly smart. He is comfortable talking about topics such as Brexit, the legacy of colonialism and the fracturing of the post-Second World War social contract, along with a steady stream of jokes. What gives Shah depth is that he is aware that his intelligence gives him a perspicacity on the issues he is facing but it does not help him explain why it happened. His struggle with how vividly the underlying causes of the three results present themselves with his inability to be a force for change provides a compelling dynamic as he moves through the show.
This is not to say that the show is rewarding aesthetically. An issue that Shah, and a lot of political comedians, have is that there are many more applause breaks than overwhelming laughs and memorable routines. It is an issue that Shah himself addresses with his caveat towards the end of the show that the audience might do better than to consider this a very amusing lecture than a comedy show. But while Control may be lacking in terms of potency, there is no denying that Shah is a captivating presence, full of urgency and wrestling with the limits of how his intelligence can be translated to make a worthwhile impact.
Ahir Shah: Control until 7 Oct at:
21 Dean Street