Pleasance Courtyard – Forth
Kieran Hodgson is an ENGLISH comedian from Yorkshire (no matter what he tries to tell you), probably most famous for his role as Gordon in the Scottish TV series Two Doors Down. And his one-man Fringe show Kieran Hodgson: Big in Scotland is undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of stand-up performance you will see this year.
Hodgson is a fluid, captivating presence on stage. Dressed in a ghastly tartan jacket, there’s huge comedy immediately, and a sense of a fond welcome from the audience, who require little warming up. As Hodgson tries to reinvent himself as a ‘better man’, we’re taken on a hilarious journey from the depths of South East England to the remote west of Scotland then back to the middle again.
It’s hard to describe just how wonderful this show is. As one half of a mixed marriage myself (Liverpudlian/Scottish) it’s probably fair to say that I have a good understanding of the clashes between English and Scottish culture: I cringe when I hear “and now for viewers in Scotland” or mentions of non-national bank holidays. So it really resonates when Hodgson sets about describing his decision to transition from ignorant English man to actual Scot. His successes and failures are totally recognisable and presented in a skilfully crafted, enormously funny set that at times left me with a wee tear in my eye.
Hodgson is a superb impressionist, and en route we meet characters too many to count. They just keep on coming! Each is styled with total precision and flawless execution, in different dialects and sometimes in different languages. From the fabulous Elaine C Smith to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Hodgson has their unique mannerisms and vocal traits totally nailed.
The pace of the show is perfection, every segment segueing seamlessly into the next, with flourishes of physical performance and ridiculous dance to punctuate. Endearingly, he’s not afraid to take the mickey out of himself, whether playing the role of the ignorant Englishman, mocking his own acting roles (the Marvel barista references are a hoot!), or just as a human being, learning about the world. You really can’t help but love him!
For what sells as a straightforward stand-up routine, this is an unexpected diamond of a show: a superbly written, layered piece of work, with humour at every turn. Behind the laughter there is frequent, meticulously researched observation of Scottish heritage, and the fraught social and political dynamics of the UK. There’s even some impressive sections spoken in gaelic! It’s a wonderfully heartwarming tale of learning to understand your place in the world: a love letter to Scotland, which Hodgson wittily delivers with panache and passion.
Produced by Berk’s Nest in association with United Agents
Kieran Hodgson: Big in Scotland runs at Pleasance Courtyard until 27 August and Soho Theatre in London 11-23 September. Tickets for Soho Theatre here.