Vidura drip-feeds us the story of his life, of eating disorders, of being an immigrant in multiple countries, going to a dodgy medical school in Malaysia, having a liberal family in Sri Lanka and of being invited to a BDSM orgy on a boat in Berlin. He is someone who has clearly had a colourful first quarter of his life, and Monsoon Season condenses these events into a likeable, laid-back stage persona, telling stories over an hour in a dingy nightclub in Edinburgh.
Vidura’s stage persona has a unique presence in the room, he seems particularly calm and collected. After each story is told, he takes a moment to stare and consider what he’s said, and what’s coming next. His jokes are weaved acerbically into the stories he tells, extracting the ridiculousness of the situations he finds himself in, and the craziness of his life story so far, and pulling it apart to find the funny. He is a calmly charismatic figure to spend an hour with, learning about the way his experiences have shaped the way he views the world and the country he now lives in.
You do feel like you get a kaleidoscopic insight into this man’s life – the stories tell the tale of someone who is all over the place, having been to medical school in Malaysia, becoming a software engineer in Berlin and then a stand-up comedian in London. Yet, his calm charisma guides you gently so he can slap you in the face with some downright outrageous punchlines. None of it is socially unacceptable, but I think his collected nature pitched against the stark worldview he poses punctures the tension quickly. You feel pretty at ease, like you’re in safe hands for the duration of the show.
Most of the material eventually focuses back to the subject of immigration and how it has affected his life, offering some actually quite deep insight. Vidura speaks about how as an overwight child emigrating to the United States, he felt he had “found his people”. He continues in this vein, offering a quite unique insight into the way eating disorders are treated across the world and how he found the tools to respond to those differences. He plays with the concept of national stereotypes much as well, producing lots of funny material about countries and their cultural output. From dismissing France for its claim to creating cinema yet not pornography, to talking about his respect for his Gay friends living in conservative Malaysia, there is a lot to sink your teeth into. All of it done with wit and charm to bring you back down to Earth.
Monsoon Season really gets into its stride when Vidura gets deeply personal with his stage persona – discussing his parents’ divorce, his struggles with eating disorders and anxiety. He digs to the depths of his human experience, bares his soul to us and asks us directly to laugh at it, all while reclining in a chair in a monotone voice. It’s a sort of dark humour mixed with a sardonic, dry wit and a genuine stoic passivism which offers often hilarious insight. Vidura speaks of his mum asking him for contraceptive advice after Med School, exclaims his disgust at being asked, and then tells us exactly what contraception he advised his mum to get.
Towards the end I felt a little as though things had rambled on for just a bit too long – this didn’t really detract from the story but we ended up leaving the venue five minutes later than planned. Such is life, I suppose.
This kind of humour is deeply relatable – we all have to do things we don’t want to, perhaps Vidura has drawn the short straw more than a few times here though. Original, clever and dry – you won’t see the cynical rains of Monsoon Season coming, but you’ll be delighted they’re here. Like an odd comedic shaman, he guides you into his cult of laughs and laments. Catch Vidura Bandara Rajapaksa: Monsoon Season at Monkey Barrel Comedy, Hive 2, at 13:55 until August 28th (not the 15th). Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.