Alok brings their new comedy and poetry solo act to a sold-out theatre that buzzes with energy and anticipation from the moment they walk on stage. The impressively polished and thoughtfully structured show spans an hour of jokes and reflections on everything from white online gurus to bad transphobic insults. It feels mature, self-aware, at times cynical but always deeply personal and, yes, also very funny.
We learn about Alok’s quest to understand white cis straight people, and to appreciate how difficult their lives are. Many of the jokes turn reality on its head, provide a fresh perspective on the world, and manage to be both entertaining and to address the very real and serious issues of transphobia and racism. There are also jokes about literal shit; it is quite a broad but cohesive mix that flows nicely together and explores common themes throughout.
The transitions between comedy and poetry are quite abrupt and, while they all make sense thematically, the emotional charge goes from one pole to another within a second. Although it perhaps helps to keep the audience on their toes and always attentive, this also means that you might still be laughing at the last joke about why luggage weight limitations are queerphobic, while you hear the opening lines of an intimate poem about Alok’s grandfather dying. It is an emotional rollercoaster, but the kind that you would beg to go on again.
Overall, the combination of comedy and poetry provides an opportunity to explore serious issues in a light-hearted way, while holding space for their gravity. Alok also reminds the audience that they are not just a piece of art to be enjoyed or a sum of jokes to laugh at, but a full human being, deserving of love and respect, even after they walk off stage and into the streets. References to politics and current events in the US (where Alok is from) and Britain also create a link between their personal anecdotes and the more general need to fight against discrimination and oppression.
Almost all their festival shows are sold out, but if you do manage to secure a ticket, do not be surprised if you find yourself hanging onto every single word in this beautifully written, honest performance that holds up a mirror to society and asks profound questions about the human condition.
Alok is performing at Traverse Theatre 2 Aug 9-14, 16-21.
Image: Lottie Amor, provided to The Student as a press image.