As promised by the enigmatic title and psychedelic poster design, Simon Amstell’s Spirit Hole brought to the stage all the beautiful, left-wing, loving open-mindedness one only fantasises about existing in the heart of the 1960s. A terribly human performer, Amstell brings no frills to his appearance on the stage. Like his style of speech, the stark simplicity of his appearance makes him strikingly easy to connect with.
He then employs this bizarre, quiet intellectualism, that puts you so at ease, to trip gently and unfalteringly over subjects such as veganism, antinatalism, polyamory, heteronormativity, gender roles, the healing powers of psychedelics, absurdities in law and human achievement, the illusions of time and free will, art versus artist and universal forgiveness – all without batting an eyelid. He does not stutter once as he runs you through the stories of his consenting sexual antics external to his relationship with his boyfriend or the joy and benefits he is gaining from unfortunately-labelled Class A drugs: gently, lovingly demanding that the audience keep up and normalise.
He is truly the modern person’s comedian and Cardiff did not disappoint in welcoming his ideas whole-heartedly to the stage. The audience was abuzz with energy and even Simon seemed caught up in it. But then, if one is so open-minded and loving, what is there left to mock? Still pretty much everything, as Simon reveals. The absurdity of life is just as abundant without hate.
Many standup comedians, bringing their life to the stage through shameful anecdotes, lean hard into their self-loathing and resentment of others as a source of comedy, normalising a sense of distance from the rest of society and laughing at rather than addressing our problems. Simon is a rare and potent exception to the rule, one of few standups you will come away from likely more psychologically healthy than when you went in.
Regularly bringing the show back round to quiet, profound statements on life, Spirit Hole is like a symposium with a modern philosopher who makes no claim to wisdom. At the same time his dynamic use of proximities and status on stage, occasionally collapsing in a pile of emotion, and his casual speech makes it feel less like a show and more like catching up with an old friend. A delightfully organic experience, I think the whole audience felt spiritually connected with Simon last night and, to paraphrase a line from the show, would thank him for his vulnerability. The New Theatre experienced an injection of life for the first time in a long time, and what an injection of life it was.
New Theatre, Cardiff, Sun 19 Sept
words FELIX JONES photos HARRY CARR