If the Comedy Awards at Edinburgh have taught us anything over the last few years, it’s that emotionally weighted shows take the spotlight.
They’re the ones that tend to stay with audience members and critics alike, long after the house lights have harshly blinded us and we’ve been swiftly booted to the kerb outside.
If the 300 strong queue for a 100 capacity venue was anything to go by, Ahir Shah’s latest Fringe show has already got people talking. With rave reviews and no ticket fees, plus the added accolade of being mere fingertips away from winning last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award, Fringe-goers needed no further nudges to get along to Duffer.
The show itself manages to navigate between family ties, stone age immigration laws and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody seamlessly (the third element adding some welcome light relief throughout). Somewhat similar in style to Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, Shah invites you in to the seemingly safe room of the joke before closing the door and delivering an unexpected gut-punch a few moments later. Duffer continues down this path for the hour and it’s clear it’s taking everything out of the performer, particularly when recounting the tale of a John Major-led Conservative government deporting his dementia suffering, widowed grandmother back to India when he was 5 years old. Unless you’ve just had concrete mix in your protein shake, or you are John Major, chances are you’ll be close to tears at this point.
Shows like this are a bit like an open shower curtain for the performer and in Duffer, there’s really not much left to the audience’s imagination. It would be naive and unfair to label this a “look at me, I’m sad” show. It’s so much more than that. Not only does it showcase a performer at the top of his game opening up to reveal his rawest emotions, but Shah also somehow manages to keep the jokes – and the Bohemian Rhapsody references – flowing with ease. If this isn’t award-winning material, I don’t know what is.
Ahir Shah: Duffer, Cabaret Voltaire, 5-26 Aug, 2.15pm