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.

By Emily Jessica Turner
Saturday, 11th September 2021, 7:00 am
Simon Amstell is at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth on September 9, 2021 with his new show Spirit Hole . Picture by Harry Carr
Simon Amstell is at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth on September 9, 2021 with his new show Spirit Hole . Picture by Harry Carr

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.

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Simon Amstell. Picture by Harry Carr

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.

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