Sindhu Vee: Alphabet

The Indian stand-up keeps her outsider instincts to the fore with a new show that delves into relationships where dysfunction and dependence ignite superior comedy

Sindhu Vee's 2018 debut show Sandhog impressed with the elegance of its storytelling, the rich, emotional exploration of her family relationships, but also the dry, pragmatic cynicism with which she tempered any hint of excessive sentimentality. And, happy to report, her exceptionally funny follow-up, Alphabet, is more of the same and considerably more besides.

Though you never doubt for a moment the love she has for those closest to her, Vee portrays it as fierce and win-at-all-costs, with her family provoking her into expletive-laden exasperation. Rather than the familiar comedian grumbles about 'im indoors, the London-based Indian stand-up makes her home life with a Danish spouse and English kids seem vital, full of distinct jeopardies and dysfunctions, while also robust and easily relatable.

The former investment banker knows and speaks her mind but is keen to share her struggles with a therapist (the sarcastically evoked Simon) and lay bare some vulnerabilities and failings in such an open manner that you immediately want to be her friend. Which is quite the achievement, because at the core of Alphabet is Vee's relationship with her two closest girlfriends. Arguably more important than her marriage, this trifecta is a complex ecosystem of love, loathing, mutual dependence, secrets and lies.

We also learn more of Vee's often difficult childhood in India and the Philippines. The ghost in the machine of her comedy, her unfiltered late mother is ever-present, echoed in the comic's often brutal frankness and hyper-sensitive neuroses. Barely sketched by comparison, but also crucial to the story, is the cool, edgy older sister from whom the show derives its title. She is cheese to Vee's chalk, but appears to have passed on some of the commanding charisma with which her younger sibling inhabits the stage.

Satisfyingly, Vee builds up to her personal disclosures gradually, introduced through her determined efforts to resist integration into Englishness. Conveyed through tremendous anecdotes of awkwardness that she's accidentally engineered at an ethnically vague hair salon, on returning to India with a British mentality and making a long distance call to a US florist, her identity is unfixed and destabilising. That may be bad news for her as a person but for a stand-up it's a boon, keeping her outsider, observational instincts sharp.

Sindhu Vee: Alphabet tours until Friday 18 February; review from The Stand, Glasgow, Wednesday 1 December.

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