Konstantin Kisin: Orwell That Ends Well (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

Konstantin Kisin: Orwell That Ends Well

credit: Steve Ullathorne

A cheeky ode to free speech

Konstantin Kisin attracted some attention towards the end of last year after refusing to sign a disclosure form for a student gig. The comic took exception at being asked to refrain from making any jokes around all manner of 'isms', tweeted about it and then went to bed. When Kisin awoke, he discovered that his evening's activity had garnered a lot of interest with the less enlightened – Piers Morgan and Fox News were among those media outlets who picked up on the story. At the risk of becoming a poster boy for those that love to complain about snowflakes, he was also dubbed a 'soy boy' by Katie Hopkins.

Let's get this straight from the off: it's not that Kisin wants to be able to insult all and sundry without remorse but that he vehemently defends free speech. It's hardly surprising for someone whose grandfather was picked up by the KGB for privately criticising Russia's involvement in Afghanistan. Kisin teases and pushes gently at boundaries with cheeky and crucially ironic jokes about his own Jewish heritage, his Ukrainian wife or Russia's lax attitude to borders.

Fundamentally, he questions whether saying whatever you feel should be illegal and it is genuinely eye-opening to hear how many people have been arrested for hate speech. Kisin questions the notion that this country isn't welcoming to immigrants and the concept of white privilege is challenged too. While this is based on his own experience and that many of us in the UK are welcoming of immigrants, at the same time the sections of hostility in society can't be ignored. But surely sustaining a dialogue is better than simply shutting down for fear of causing offence or of being offended. When we stop talking, that's when the trouble truly starts.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3–26 Aug (not 13), 7pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10). Preview 2 Aug, £6.

Konstantin Kisin: Orwell That Ends Well

  • 3 stars

Konstantin Kisin, who made international headlines by refusing to sign a safe space contract for a university gig, offers an intelligent, uncompromising look at free speech and "wokeness" in his debut show. Full of strong gags, tales of rags-to-riches, back-to-rags (as the son of a former oligarch) and razor-sharp…