AHIR SHAH: DUFFER | London, Bloomsbury Theatre

“Duffer” is what Ahir Shah’s nan used to call him when he was a mischievous toddler: it means “clown” or “fool”, something Shah took to heart, now at the age of 28, a professional clown of global renown. Shah relates in painful detail how his beloved nan became lost to dementia, and how this impacted on his own suicidal depression, with which he still suffers.

“For most of my life, I’ve been ‘emosh’, but in my early twenties I was diagnosed as ‘clinically totes emosh’?” he intones, breathlessly. “Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living. But I don’t know how he would have felt about those of us who’ve always thought it was the examinations that made the hemlock look so tempting.”

Amid these fierce, upsetting monologues in awestruck, pin-drop silence, there is also great humour. Shah points out that British Indians are now the wealthiest and best educated group in the U.K., and his comments on the culture clash of his own upbringing, along with gentrification and the impossibility of living in London, garner a huge audience response.

It’s unusual to go to a stand up show and leave crying, as many in the audience were by the end. This is undoubtedly a well-crafted comedy show, the final scheduled date after extensive touring for over a year now. But audiences should be aware that Shah’s brand of intense, personal comedy might also shake you to the very core.

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