A Round of Applause review: It's Netflix's most original and absurd show

Turkish comedy is surreal, emotional and totally zany, though patient viewers will be rewarded

Fatih Artman as Mehmet and Aslihan Gurbuz as Zeynep in A Round of Applause. Photo: Netflix
Powered by automated translation

Despite being one of the world’s most dominant entertainment providers, Netflix has occasionally been accused of prioritising quantity over quality.

While hundreds of millions regularly watch its original output, many instantly forget them, too.

However, for better or worse, its latest release A Round of Applause is likely to stay buried in minds longer after viewing.

The Turkish comedy is so unconventional, it's brilliant. But it's not for those craving easy-watching 30-minute laughs. It's surreal comedy. However, those who stick with it will undoubtedly recommend it as the new must-watch series to anyone who'll listen.

There will also be those who find A Round of Applause so offbeat it’s infuriating. If they resist the urge to turn it off in frustration, they’ll probably go on to turn off any prospective viewers.

A Round of Applause revolves around married couple Mehmet (Fatih Artman) and Zeynep (Aslihan Gurbuz).

The first episode begins with Zeynep telling Mehmet they're unprepared for the impending birth of their child. The pair rush out to buy all the necessary supplies including a pram, crib and formula. However – and here's the bit that'll probably put most off – they're not actually pregnant.

Instead, Zeynep remarks, without any hint of irony, they have forgotten to conceive the child.

Flash forward to a heavily pregnant Zeynep, and A Round of Applause’s incredibly dry approach to its surreal material is what makes it so captivating; most of the time I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at what I'm watching.

Either way, its writer and director Berkun Oya finds a moment of uncomfortable truth in their relationship and those paying attention will find illuminating.

After the absurdity of the opening scene, the now-pregnant Zeynep and Mehmet are visited by their spoilt friends Sevda and Burak.

The pair can’t help but see similarities between how they care for their visitors and how it will be when their child is finally born. Especially when, during a thunderstorm, Sevda and Burak ask if they can sleep in their bed because they’re scared.

Oya’s decision to end these scenes on Mehmet waking up might suggest that the show’s bizarre moments are merely dream sequences.

But later, it's back to the bizarre. When Zeynep starts to have contractions, audiences eventually see their son Metin (Cihat Suvarioglu), though he's a middle-aged man with an umbilical cord attached to his stomach.

Metin sits next to a window, smoking and listening to another man insist he should already know what he wants to do with his life, even though he hasn’t been born yet.

Throughout its six episodes, which have a combined running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes, A Round of Applause follows Mehmet, Zeynep and Metin as they contend with existential struggles about parenthood, marriage and figuring out what to do with life.

Some of the stories are surreal, such as Zeynep and Mehmet remaining unnervingly calm after losing Metin on the first night they bring him home, which includes a hilarious reveal about where he is hiding.

But there are also relatable sequences, such as a teenage Metin having his heart broken for the first time and then as a middle-aged man finally being honest with his parents.

A Round of Applause

Director: Berkun Oya
Starring: Aslihan Gürbüz, Fatih Artman, Cihat Suvarioglu
Rating: 4/5

Oya seemingly takes great joy in taking A Round of Applause in surprising directions, and the filmmaker, who has also dabbled in feature films and theatre, plays with the form in an original and confrontational manner.

Not everything he tries pays off, and there are moments even the most open-minded of viewers will roll their eyes at.

But these slight failures only make its success all the more rewarding and powerful, as it challenges viewers to keep up. Those that do will remember A Round of Applause for a long time to come.

A Round of Applause is now streaming on Netflix in the UAE.

Updated: March 01, 2024, 3:01 PM
A Round of Applause

Director: Berkun Oya
Starring: Aslihan Gürbüz, Fatih Artman, Cihat Suvarioglu
Rating: 4/5