If pirates wore signet rings and possessed anything in the way of eloquence, I’d feel as if I were watching a one-man shanty as Ahir Shar (aka Shit Shag, via autocorrect) sways and splutters. There’s an almost drunk fury in his eyes, a rage that channels into brilliant – perhaps even radiant – streaks of profundity without ever being smug. This is an intelligent chap (similar to Ed Miliband, we’re told, if he’d got a double first). The real difference is Shah’s astounding zeal.
By the end of each substantial brainstorm, so much has been covered, with pathos and patter, that we are left amazed, dazzled, confused. We must think for ourselves.
He plays the hyper-intelligent child and entitled grown-up with blunt honesty. Everything that comes in between, from the miles of cigarettes to sibling tensions, Rainforest Alliance uncertainty to unwittingly shared opinions about terrorism, is picked apart gloriously and fed into the stream of consciousness, bolstering punchparagraphs (a neologism is deserved). Stand-up this meaningful and insistent demands the ‘bravo’ one audience member exclaimed; not just lousy claps.
One section is ‘crude and unnecessary’, as one newspaper put it – which Shah takes pains to mention. But the brash udder action is a daring step into the surreal that delights in the messiness of nature (if we’re being overly forgiving). It also shows, flirtatiously, not gravely, Shah drawing himself closer to what matters: to the farm when buying milk, just as to the psyche of a Green party member before casting a vote or to the pricing structure of Hickety’s book as a condition of acknowledging the author’s ideas.
Because most of Distant is as deadly serious as the title and the prologue-epilogue (potentially pretentious) structure apprehend. Shah will expertly delve into a sombre subject like the Hebdo massacre with a surprisingly slight entry point (Pirates of the Caribbean) and then let it all unravel with modern pointlessness (Facebook posts and Twitter character limits). By the end of each substantial brainstorm, so much has been covered, with pathos and patter, that we are left amazed, dazzled, confused. We must think for ourselves.
WWI is used as an anchor of solemnity that nullifies our concerns about decadence, property prices, prime ministers, pandas, Proclaimers. This is a joyous hour though. I won’t deny that Shah can get a bit trailblazing-debate-captain ideological, but the imagined journey to his girlfriend (later gleefully undermined by today’s technology) is one of the most impassioned barrages of phantasmagoric Romance you’ll find. As if that weren’t enough, he also serves up the best pronunciation of ‘laptray’ in the industry.