Ahir Shah: Machines

Following on from the success of Distant at last year’s Fringe and an international tour, Ahir Shah is back in Edinburgh with a new show brimming with witty political polemic and intelligence. Shah’s fast-pace show takes a winding route as he examines the world we live in, its infinite complexity and the alarming speed at which it is changing. In a whirlwind tour of his political views Shah covers issues surrounding immigration, the terrifying rise in hard right sentiment and the appropriation of various religions for violence, all the while hinting at that better world we seem so close to realising.

Machines is making important points in beautiful, funny and often poignant ways.

Despite the seriousness of these issues, Shah packs in the laughs, sprinkling a few more lighthearted jokes into the mix for good measure. He delivers his set with a fervour that is fitting for the topic in hand, although this can make his shifts into silliness seem a little sharp.

Shah’s material is intricately crafted, often melancholically beautiful in tone and so densely written that we frequently sweep through several philosophical points in the space of a single breath. His rhythmic delivery imbues the show with a whiff of spoken word poetry. Suffused with whimsically archaic syntax and poetic turns of phrase - the world today is simultaneously “hyperconnected and atomised” - Shah’s set is painstakingly sewn together with a compact verbal utilitarianism that makes every word feel deliberate, even if they are spoken at hyper-speed.

The eloquence and cleverness of his set is understandably something Shah is aware of, but unfortunately there is a little smugness to his performance style, magnified by the odd brag about his own talent, that ever so slightly hinders the audience’s engagement with him as a performer.

Nevertheless, Machines is making important points in beautiful, funny and often poignant ways. Ahir Shah is going places and his show is definitely one to catch while it’s still free - but if you want to get a seat, make sure to get there early! 

Reviews by Iona Gaskell

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The Blurb

Philosophical stand-up Ahir Shah combines questing polemic with hella sweet gags in Machines: an hour of comedy about democracy, technology, internationalism, terrorism, history, modernity, utopia and lizards. It's both funny and good. Shah's last show, Distant, was performed to critical and popular acclaim at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe, and subsequently toured around the UK, Paris and Australia. He is very rarely on television or radio, which is a shame really. The venue is centrally located. The show is free. Nice. ‘Passionate, poetic, powerfully funny’ **** (List). ‘A potent and articulate comic voice’ **** (Scotsman). ‘Excellent’ **** (Guardian).