Review – Ahir Shah, Dress, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 27th November 2021

Ahir Shah DressWe saw Ahir Shah’s Dots show at the Edinburgh Fringe and enjoyed his cunning blend of intelligent and political comedy so much that he won the Chrisparkle Award for Best Stand Up in Edinburgh for 2019. Naturally we decided to book for his next show, Dress, particularly as we wouldn’t have to go all the way up to Edinburgh to see him!

For Dress, Mr Shah has made a reminiscence compilation of the various stages of the last 18 months or so, and is a personal account of his lockdown/pandemic journey. We’ve all had one of these, so it’s easy for us to identify with his sequence of highs and lows, reliving the emotions, idiocies and tragedies that the last two years have dealt us. He also reflects the pandemic through a political viewpoint, making no secret of his Labour leanings and his revulsion of All Things Tory.

Ahir Shah DotsHe’s pretty much up to date, with his speculation that who knew how cheap it was to buy a Tory MP – only 100k for Owen Patterson, and he’s a proper “Shropshire White”; you would have thought they’d run into seven figures at least. His dream is to be rich enough to buy a Tory and still have Communist kids; and, if lockdowns continue, being a house-husband is a thoroughly rewarding way of life (having done it myself I can completely concur). Having spent much of 2020 cooped up at home with a go-getting but work-from-home girlfriend, he discovered the joys of soup-making and repositioning ornaments, and was never happier. We all had our own ways of coping with lockdown!

He’s a very engaging and charming chap on stage; his voice has a warmth of plummy poshness that isn’t so much evocative of a Rees-Mogg, but reminds me more of the young Tom Conti in The Norman Conquests, tittering at his own naughtiness and getting away with murder because he suggests it so politely. He’s excellent at interacting with the audience, chatting effortlessly with property developer Remy and charity-entrepreneur Sam in the front row; only for them to realise they are old friends neither of whom knew the other was going to be there that night – true serendipity! He also reinforces the fact that there has to be an interval for no other reason than, in the post-pandemic financial situation, the venue needs the income from the bar. Culture thrives on our alcoholism. At least that meant he could sample a pint of local Phipps IPA.

Despite his frequent forays into the audience, Dress is a closely-constructed, deftly scripted routine, jam-packed with callbacks and delivered with terrific comic precision. It’s a very positive show; he tells us about meeting his dad outside Tate Modern for a socially-distanced reunion just as it started to become possible to do such a thing – and I have to say I found it quite an emotional tale. If you were there at the theatre, or if you’re here reading this, the one thing we have in common is that we have all survived this far somehow. Mr Shah’s message is to cherish that fact and consider what’s gone before as a dress rehearsal for what’s to come. Enjoyable, intelligent, reflective, and with plenty to laugh about. After a couple of months’ break, his tour continues at the end of January into March. Recommended!