Avital Ash @ Monkey Barrel at the Tron
Avital Ash is witty and instantly likeable, attempting stand-up on challenging topics, but the end result can leave an uneasy feeling
TW: this show and review contain discussions of suicide and sexual assault
Because Avital Ash works at the darker end of the comedy spectrum, it’s important that she finds her crowd – this she more or less manages, as the show’s title, Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note, can sift out audience members who aren’t comfortable hearing such matters joked about.
Much of the hour’s first half sees Ash joke about her mother’s suicide, which happened when she was a baby, and how her familial relationships have been shaped as a result. Ash knows that the audience feel nervous laughing about this topic, and seems to thrive in the discomfort of it; she’s a strong joke-writer and so pulls it off.
But as the show progresses, it moves from a dark stand-up routine into something that is closer to a one-woman show, with more verbatim accounts of events and little attempt to spin jokes out of them. Ash narrates three separate accounts of sexual assault and spiking – these are deeply upsetting, and at times the audience become scared that Ash is going to be overwhelmed in reliving it. This theme is also not flagged in the programme and will cause distress because of it.
What’s frustrating is that Ash is genuinely a talented stand-up. Not many comics could get so much as a titter on topics like their mother’s suicide, but she’s droll and witty, and instantly likeable, so manages it.
The show’s conclusion is clever, and feels uplifting, with a list of reasons to keep living that have been contributed by the audience throughout – the random nature of it means she has a chance to show off a quick comedic mind, and we get to hear her list both ABBA’s ‘Gimme gimme gimme’ and ‘big titties’ as reasons to keep living.
Suicide Note ultimately feels more at home as a piece of theatre than stand-up; a shift in genre might allow for an audience with more appropriate expectations. But still we can’t shake the feeling that Ash is not distanced enough from some of the events to comfortably talk about them on stage.
Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note, Monkey Barrel @ The Tron, until 27 Aug, 10.05pm, £9-£10/PWYW