mon 04/03/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 review: Ahir Shah | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 review: Ahir Shah

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 review: Ahir Shah

Deserved winner of prestigious award

Ahir Shah won best show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards

Ahir Shah, Monkey Barrel

Ahir Shah is a fast talker, but then in Ends – which deservedly won best show in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards – he has a lot to say. It's a show about multiculturalism, family, identity, fitting in, and encompasses modern history on two continents, so he has a lot to pack in.

He starts, more prosaically, by talking about how he got into this comedy lark because, as three generations of his family sat down together to watch Goodness Gracious Me in 1998, it was the first time he had heard his grandparents properly laugh out loud.

Shah's family – specifically his late maternal grandfather – loom large in this show, as he recounts his nanaji's progress from India in 1964, leaving his wife and three children back home until he could afford to send for them, to Bradford and then later to Wembley in London.

So Shah ponders the “generational sacrifice” made by his grandfather and how he might view the UK today. And, as ever, the comic melds the political and personal to shine a light on how society changes – even if we have a lot further to go on race and migration. So while his grandfather faced poverty and discrimination, Shah went to Cambridge and is successful in a job he loves.

Not as successful as the current UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, though – another person of Indian Hindu descent whose parents came to the UK from East Africa at about the same time as Shah's grandparents migrated. (“Politically, I’m furious,” he says of the Tory PM. “Racially, thrilled.”) Shah cleverly interweaves details of the two family's stories to illuminate how our colonial history is embedded in our everyday lives.

Some of the subject matter may make Ends sound a little serious. It is when it needs to be – making the Amritsar massacre funny would, should, be beyond most comics – but Shah drops in joke bombs to lighten the mood and link some otherwise disparate passages. So we learn what his name means in Arabic – leading to a neat callback later – how Latin saved him from a beating and of his impending marriage to a civil servant. “I'm in it for the pension,” he deadpans.

It is a meticulously crafted show, with linguistic leitmotifs throughout, building to a tender finale.

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