Review: Anuvab Pal: Empire at Pleasance Courtyard

Anuvab Pal, one of India’s top comedians, doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to Empire. 

Pal jumps straight into the thick of it, explaining the origins of his own perfect English, his weight gain, and his treacherous nature in full geopolitical context. The cumulative result could even be called the last remaining crown jewel of the British Empire.

Pal explains the ‘hangover’ the British left behind with their abrupt exit in 1947, telling us it can be seen in an array of contemporary ways, from India’s attitude towards sex to the UK’s attitude towards Gandhi. This isn’t just witty humour – it’s genius. Pal leverages the audience’s discomfort and their reactions to subtly show pervasive attitudes and assumptions at the core of our postcolonial world – and he doesn’t mince words when it comes to Scotland’s role in Britain’s imperial project.

Nuanced and unexpected insights are contrasted with blasé charisma, only interrupted by the intriguing conspiratorial energy of a private tutor wryly guiding you around an exam’s tricks. The delivery comes across as organic, sometimes even improvised. ‘You’re outraged for me!’ he chuckles, looking around the audience after sharing an encounter with racism.

It’s easy to miss his accomplished acting whilst immersed in his routine, but he transitions effortlessly between hilarious impressions. In one such bit, he vividly illustrates an encounter he had with a Midwestern American, practically transporting the audience to suburbia.

The 60-minute show went by in a flash, providing only a glimpse of what is clearly a wealth of material. Catch him now before the rest of the Western world ‘discovers’ him for the talent India already knows he is.

Anuvab Pal, Empire, Pleasance Courtyard, 5-26 Aug (not 13), 7pm

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