Ellipsis is an exploration of bereavement, the nature of turning everything into punchlines, and desperately trying to stay afloat amidst the two. Lebanese British writer, actor and comedian Isabelle Farah leads the audience warmly and skilfully through the poignant denouement.
A sincere and creatively crafted show.
The show is somewhat uncomfortable. So it should be: like any writing that meshes personal trauma with comedy, the flitting between humour and tragedy takes some warming up to. The audience seems tentative for a while and the show jumpstarts a little throughout. Farrah seems skittish, losing her footing in her own writing at times. At others, we are a little too shellshocked to laugh, which, frankly, is only expected. Recounting other cultures’ customs surrounding grief is pertinent and amusing, but ultimately her point remains stark: “we are awful at grieving in this country”. However, self-awareness cushions these moments as Farah constantly doubles back to provide commentary on how stand-up is created, using classic Mario Kart videogame sound effects to illustrate the “levels” of comedic experience - she thus indicates that she is on the road to a Level 5 (where anything goes) but not quite there.
Particularly engaging in her commentary is the use of lighting - warm as the show opens as a light-nate stand-up vignette, and colder and brighter as Farah ‘snaps out of’ the initial facade and invites the audience to analyse the punchlines she has just made.
There aren’t consistent laughs - it doesn’t claim to be rip-roaring stand-up - and at points it seemed possible that the comedic material was supposed to land better than it did. But there’s little time for consideration before there arrives another change of tempo: from the faux stand-up, to her analysis thereof, to snippets of her day job (complete with flippant asides to the audience revealing the gut-wrenching thoughts of the recently bereaved).
Powerful above all, and almost distractingly so, is control of the central question: that of her bereavement and whom it concerns. It makes for an aching conclusion after a tense hour. Her training as an actor shines and she handles silences liberally and with ease. Better, not a syllable is lost as she switches back and forth, putting aside a handheld mic, from nonchalant, breathy comedian to her ‘real’ self, filling the space with articulate confidence.
Embroidered in poetic language, none more so than her explanation of the title to close the show, Ellipsis is a sincere and creatively crafted show that sits somewhere between stand-up and monologue.