Review: ALOK at Soho Theatre – ★★★★★
Hilarious and inspirational in equal measures, ALOK serves a coruscating, awe-inspiring hour exploring trauma, belonging and the human condition.
It’s a supremely tricky act to balance side-splitting gags with heart-bursting, truth-to-power inspiration, but ALOK achieves the impossible with this unapologetically tub-thumping declaration of binary-busting empowerment.
Poet, performance artist, media personality and author of Femme in Public (2017), Beyond the Gender Binary (2020) and Your Wound/My Garden (2021), ALOK delivers a powerhouse performance in this sell-out run at Soho Theatre, ahead of what should be one of the hottest tickets at the Edinburgh Fringe.
As contenders to be the next British Prime Minister fight it out for right-wing votes with (at best) dogwhistle transphobia, it’s so refreshing and goddamn NECESSARY to hear ALOK’s voice dismantling the white, cisgendered heteronormative hegemony. This is an hour of barely contained anger, a forthright attack on the misguided and ill-informed bigotry which preys upon people of difference.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like a laugh-fest. Well, it is – like Hannah Gadsby, ALOK serves something akin to activist comedy: it’s funny, at times shady as hell, ALOK a ball of riotous energy condensed and just-about contained on the Soho Theatre stage; it’s also the most engaging and inspirational TED talk you’ll ever have the pleasure of experiencing. Between segments of breathless, stream-of-consciousness hilarity ALOK seamlessly – magically – inserts epic, heartbreaking poetry to a rapt, hear-a-pin-drop audience. And rather than pausing for a (deserved) round of applause, they’re straight into their next ‘bit’, taking down by several pegs the TERFs, the racists, the hypocrites and the wilfully ignorant.
At times, it feels like the audience could break out into animated discussion groups, so numerous and urgent are the talking points raised. At others, watching ALOK in full flow feels like watching some kind of jaw-dropping celestial event. ALOK is no rising star of the future – they are going supernova.