Isabelle Farah starts Ellipsis by explaining that comedians are all sitting at certain levels, dictating what they are allowed to speak about and how good they are at doing it. It is a system that Farah can’t knock down entirely, but she highlights its shortcomings with a set that is more akin to a dramatic monologue than a typical stand-up set. Ellipsis is an introspective show brimming with authenticity that, although barely referencing the pandemic, is still in large part about the masks we wear to feel safe.
Farah’s show is characterised by convincing, unambiguous transitions between her presenting herself as she is, and appearing as she would when putting on a brave face for her comedy sets. It is when she comes out from behind this safety net that Ellipsis becomes an increasingly moving account of grief and trauma. Farah channels loss, health and fragility in a way that never feels forced or like she is clawing for sympathy, yet still manages to find humour throughout her performance. It is a blend of sunken realism and an optimistic drive to make people laugh that leaves you in little doubt about who this person bounding about the stage really is.
This is not a show meant to leave you with warming belly laughs and hearty chortles. There is plenty of humour, but it is more muted; you laugh with Farah far more often than you laugh at what she is saying. She has complete control of the show’s atmosphere and the audience’s reactions, letting jokes sink in and the heavier points linger in the minds of those watching. One gag takes a moment to sink in, but when it does the effect on the crowd is great to observe. It is a testament to how well Farah blends humour into her story, lifting what could have been a clumsily written plea for sympathy into something profound and entertaining in equal measure.
Ellipsis is a marvellous one-woman show that leaves nothing off the table in order to show you just exactly who Isabelle Farah is. Taking aim at our inability to mourn properly and at comedy’s sometimes fickle attempts to be relatable are at the heart of a performance that will stay with you far longer than your average stand-up show ever could.