Ahir Shah: Astrology
In last year's How I Escaped My Certain Fate, Stewart Lee wrote that seeing the up-and-coming Ahir Shah affect a mental breakdown while wandering amongst the audience is what convinced him that it may have been time to retire said technique from his arsenal. In the week following the book's publication, both acts shared the stage during a tense edition of Political Animal. Shah bravely addressed Lee's accusation of plagiarism and, impressively, emerged from the gig with his reputation intact.
In the year since this incident, the 20-year-old appears to have drawn further inspiration from his hero. He divides and categorises the audience according to the way that different sectors respond to a joke, employs repetition for comic effect, parrots the delivery of one of Lee's most famous routines and, true to form, affects a mental breakdown amongst the audience. It is at this point that he addresses me as “man with notebook who hasn't been enjoying this,” an assessment that isn't entirely accurate. Shah's set is tight and well-written, and stands as an extremely impressive début, even if it is shamefully derivative.
Revolving around the predictions made by an astrologer as to how Shah would turn out, much of the hour finds the comic musing on his name and identity. Obviously an intelligent fellow, he's already mastered the well-constructed turn of phrase, while some of his descriptive writing is appropriately poetic. The fundamental problem with his show is that the Cambridge student doesn't appear to have a broad enough range of experience to draw from and resorts to over-stretching thin material and appropriating the work and identities of others.
Ahir Shah: Astrology, Underbelly's Pasture, until Aug 28, 17;25, £7/£8