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Review: SIMON AMSTELL, SPIRIT HOLE, Richmond Theatre

Simon Amstell touches on ageing, toxic masculinity and Berlin sex clubs in his latest show

Review: SIMON AMSTELL, SPIRIT HOLE, Richmond Theatre

Review: SIMON AMSTELL, SPIRIT HOLE, Richmond Theatre Those who know Simon Amstell's comedy, know that he often focuses on shame, the concept of the ego, general anxiety and internal conflict. His new show, Spirit Hole, is certainly not a departure from these subjects, but is used as an opportunity for Amstell to focus on analysing his over-thinking and what gets in the way of achieving spiritual contentment as he hits the age of 42.

In a society terrified of ageing, his own teetering on the edge of middle-age brings on a crisis of youth that sees him go to New York, dye his hair blonde and try to pull a young, muscular barman.

His quest for romance has always been a rich subject; a joke about being attracted to someone who is so thin they look close to death was very memorable in a previous show. Despite having a (very understanding) boyfriend, he clearly hasn't moved on very much, now stating he wants someone who looks like someone who needs help, looking like "a troubled mole" or someone "allergic to plums".

He muses on the social expectations of sexuality and gender. Masculinity is a focus of the show and how its toxicity impacts on all areas of society. This brings some smart jokes about advertisers' handling of the promotion of men's moisturiser. Feelings of broodiness have also come as a surprise, while he ponders if fatherhood might actually bring him happiness and fulfilment.

He still feels internal shame about his own childhood when he was coming to terms with being gay. This is at odds with how freely he jokes about sex and intimacy now, but he often seems embarrassed by his own honesty and agonises over his remaining social unease.

In his quest to be more spontaneous and escape his own head, he reverts to the subject of his 2019 Netflix special Set Free by returning to a Peruvian ayahuasca ceremony and a new, open revelation about going to a Berlin sex club with his boyfriend.

Amstell's willingness to expose the workings of his own mind feels deeply personal and philosophical, as he constantly questions and berates himself. His delivery remains incredibly natural; so much so, that he occasionally stops to refer to his notes. He does it with breezy aplomb, but it does interrupt the flow of the show a little. However, most of the show follows a tight script, with a sprinkling of spontaneous asides that also land beautifully. This is a precise, bitingly honest and well curated show.

The constant internal angst and neurosis could be annoying, but it is just too funny, clever and infectious to be irritating. It is also very thoughtful and considered comedy writing where angst deftly morphs into art.

Simon Amstell, Spirit Hole is now touring

Image Credit: Simon Amstell

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