Shappi Khorsandi: Dirty Looks And Hopscotch

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

At the end of this hour detailing her disastrous relationship with a musician, Shappi Khorsandi asks: ‘Will you come back another time, and I’ll do my show for you?’

It’s an acknowledgement that this is just as much a necessary vent to get some of the sordid details of these unpleasant eight months off her chest as it is a jolly comedy routine. Dirty Looks And Hopscotch is powered both by her anger at how she was treated and her disappointment in herself for allowing such an obviously unsuitable partner to string her along.

Good comedy comes from the heart, as this so unashamedly does, although there are also times when the show feels in need of a stronger, more detached, directorial hand to guide the material through the more embittered and awkward moments.

Khorsandi has reason to be embittered, though, as her one-time rock star lover – who she declines to name, perhaps on legal advice rather than to preserve his reputation – was controlling, repeatedly unfaithful and an all-round shitbag.

But it’s not all ex- bashing, as she ponders why she stuck with him, despite being aware of his myriad faults. Perhaps it was because she needed an ego boost following a difficult divorce; perhaps it was because he was a charismatic master manipulator like all the most sociopathic cult leader;, or perhaps it was some long-standing insecurities instilled in her by her ultra-conservative, over-protective Iranian mother who was not the best at making sex seem normal, what with her calling it ‘whore’s business’.

The narrative of this slow-motion car crash of a relationship holds the interest, while the more entertaining parts of the show often relate to Khorsandi’s general attitudes to relationships, and those ingrained in society: from the princess fantasies every primary schoolgirl has, to how first romantic encounters no longer depend on the alcohol-hazed last dance at the club as it did in her youth, to the attitudes of bitchy female columnists who seem callously bent on making a 38-year-old single mum such as her feel unattractive.

However, the gender politics is underplayed in favour of the personal story; and although the tone is of an incorrigible self-obsessed gossip, some pointed lines nestle in the well-deserved character assassination of the ex; from explaining what lonely hears seeking a ‘good sense of humour’ really mean to some sharp comments about how young and plentiful the musician’s conquests were.

A few segments don’t fit well with the story, such as the old school project about life in Iran she shares with us, the dodgy Zimbabwean accent, or her fretting about never wanting to offend anyone – which is not the No 1 attribute you want in a comedian. Nonetheless, Khorsandi has the honesty to put her own issues on display here, making it her most personal show since her breakthrough 2006 offering, Asylum Speaker.

The unexpected climax – if we can use such a word in a show that’s not afraid to be explicit about sex – raises more questions than answers about her love life. But then there’s always the 2013 show for that....

Review date: 22 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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