Review | Simon Amstell at The New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth: 'Somewhere between comedy and confessional'
Spirit Hole is Simon Amstell’s latest and perhaps most abstractly named stand-up tour.
The show – a ‘super-spreader event’, Amstell darkly jokes – came to Portsmouth to perform to an audience at the New Theatre Royal.
His trademark style, oscillating between self-deprecation, cutting commentary, and mild indignation, Amstell’s stand-up sits somewhere between comedy and confessional.
Spirit Hole self-analytically reflects on the famously angst-ridden comedian’s issues with feelings of inadequacy and shame while also poking fun at his tussles with ego and entitlement.
Covering themes such as relationships, spirituality, Jewish identity, and drugs, Spirit Hole treads old topical ground for Amstell – but the material is fresh, while also comically dissecting his preoccupation with youth and aging.
Dryly sardonic and often wickedly sharp, a midlife crisis for 41-year-old Amstell might look a little different from the norm – he recounts his time in a Berlin sex club, an hallucinogenic ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, and bleaching his hair blonde in New York – but there’s still much relatability in his writing.
Sharply attuned to the bizarreness of human interaction, Amstell takes a sideways glance at topics such as hypothetical parenthood, masculinity, and ‘male’ culture.
Spirit Hole’s hour flew by thanks to Amstell’s free fire approach, leaping from anecdote to rant to punchline - and at one point, a Jewish prayer.
New name Leo Reich is an ideal opening act for the show.
The 23-year-old is similar to the headliner in that he leaps between self-deprecating humour and performative arrogance as he tackles personal topics such as queerness and Jewish identity.
Reich has clearly taken a leaf out of Amstell’s book in his scattergun approach to stand-up, covering a wide range of topics during a short set: bisexuality, love, school, coronavirus, running.
However, there’s a different, theatrical physicality to Reich’s performance, and he is clearly made for the stage. Definitely one to watch.