ALOK is an internationally acclaimed writer, performer and public speaker. Their new show at the Traverse this Fringe is a relatively unusual combination of genres: part stand up, part performance poetry.
They appear on stage, resplendent in a tight tangerine dress, chandelier earrings and turquoise mules. Their stand-up routine skips with an acerbic wit through their life and times with an ongoing satirical drumbeat: a petition for the rehabilitation of the cisgender white male who is so grossly misunderstood. It’s a sharply astute idea, highlighting wholly inadequate inclusion in Western society courtesy of the blinkered world view of the white patriarchy. It’s also a hot topic and the audience loved it.
Their manner of delivery in the stand-up sections is possibly a deliberately ironic choice but the repetition of the querulous upward inflexion at each sentence’s end winds up feeling somewhat grating, like being talked at for a relentless hour by an over-enthusiastic teenager.
The performance poetry, on the other hand, is another thing all together. Here, ALOK takes on a tranquility, a calm, a stately manner of delivery that is magnetic as they stand in their finery, speaking searing words that capture the immensity of the massive terrifying things in life alongside the tiny innocuous inconsequential things with equal care. Their poem about their beloved grandfather is heart-stoppingly beautiful.
This show packs a punch. It’s tough-going for a white cisgender person, too often routinely oblivious to her privilege. And ALOK must be celebrated for precisely for that reason. When your privilege is so ingrained that even the suggestion that the tables should be turned riles you, that’s a line in the sand. This show is for all the people whose voices aren’t currently heard. Us white cisgender people need to suck it up and do better.
On leaving the theatre, a group of older (white, mostly male-presenting) people were first out the door. Following moments of shocked silence, one said tentatively: “the poems were beautiful.” The vibrantly colourful (younger, entirely diverse) audience surged up the stair behind them: “achingly hilarious,” they cried. ALOK’s scheduled performances are sold out and several extra shows have been scheduled. Decide for yourself.