Most stand up comedies don’t include pumpkins, bread rolls or dildo mics but in Krishna Istha: Beast, no combination is too strange. Hailing from the U.K., Krishna Istha cannot be boxed in. They’re loud, proud and ready to let the world know their place. Istha oozes confidence in their comfortable stance, energetic nature and unnerving eye contact which at times, had the audience in peals of laughter. It’s not in every show that the topic of bisexual roads, trans trucks and the likening of Grindr to Maccas appears, but Beast is anything but average.
Directed by Zoe Coombs Marr (Best Show Melbourne Comedy Festival 2016, Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee 2016), her newest show Beast throws a whole new spin on the male stand-up comedian trope. Sharp puns balanced with daggy dad jokes, the show encompasses stand-up in a refreshing new way. Gone are the testosterone-fuelled, misogynistic quips poking fun at the other sex and vice versa, Beast sits right on the fence. Istha has been on both sides, after all.
The show begins eerily, making me question whether I’d read the synopsis properly as green lights wash the space in which an odd shape is covered by a white sheet. The contents underneath the sheet begins to move in conjunction with the ascending rumbling noises reverberating throughout the room. It reaches a crescendo and all is revealed—an Istha emerges dressed in basketball clothes and already laughing at the audience’s confused faces. This is the first of many digs made at the perplexing genre of performance art throughout the show which, to be quite honest, is very relatable. “I love comedy” says Krishna, “the aim of comedy is to make people laugh. The aim of performance art is for people to never laugh again.” Same, Istha, same.
Despite it being a comedy, Beast educates the audience on the issues that trans people deal with on an everyday basis. It certainly opened up my eyes to the things that I take for granted, such as easily accessible healthcare, presenting only my passport at the airport and not having to regularly inject myself with hormones. They commented on how they feel like a museum exhibit sometimes with people constantly staring and asking them questions. This is the main premise of the show — explaining the answers to the questions that trans people receive on a regular basis. But, as Istha is quick to point out, they’re tired of explaining themselves all the time so it’s time to shut up and listen.
My only criticism of Beast though is that it felt highly rehearsed. Sometimes the jokes didn’t hit their mark as well as they could have if the tone had been more conversational and relaxed. Granted, it was the opening night of Beast in Perth and so the nerves would’ve been apparent when presenting to a new audience. But if that is the only negative thing that I have to say about the show, it was pretty damn good.
Krishna Istha: Beast is essential in broadening the diversity and inclusion of comedians everywhere. Presenting serious topics in a humorous way is no small feat but Istha manages to pull it off with a barrel of laughs. As someone who doesn’t usually attend stand-up comedy or watch it online, I was thoroughly impressed and engrossed the whole time, to my surprise. Beast is most definitely not one to miss.
Krishna Istha: Beast is on @ the Blue Room Theatre until January 25th as part of Fringe World Perth.