Three of his previous shows – Lance (2015), Maestro (2016) and ’75 (2018) – were all nominated for ‘Best Comedy Show’ at the Edinburgh Fringe, so there is quite the weight of expectation on the shoulders of Kieran Hodgson‘s new show, Big In Scotland. Within seconds of the comedy star bounding onstage with infectious energy, sporting a rather natty Tartan jacket, we know we are in a safe pair of hands.
It is a bold, nay foolhardy, move to suggest at the head of a show in Edinburgh that “God created the most enlightened country in the world…and then put an even wetter one on top of it”! But Kieran is allowed to mock Scotland because – wait for it – he is Scottish himself now!
This Nationality swap is at the heart of Big In Scotland and it begins with a best man’s speech. Recreated in sphincter-clenching detail, Kieran treats his friend, the groom, Andy, to a pompous, self-regarding speech, full of laboured jokes, esoteric tangents into architecture and fails to tell his friend that he loves him.
What follows is a Damascene moment of self-realisation. Hodgson recognises that he has become parasitically self-important. “Yes, I was English”. His decision to change himself, to become ‘a better Kieran’, coincides with an impromptu move to Scotland.
Auditioning for the part of Gordon – “no surname required” – in the increasingly-popular Scottish BBC sitcom Two Doors Down, Hodgson toys with the idea of playing the character, amidst all these native Scots actors, with a Scottish accent. A hilarious diatribe from the show’s producer of the sheer folly of attempting anything less than an uncannily-accurate and specific accent prompts a hasty reconsidering and a fresh decision to do it in his natural Yorkshire accent. An accent with which he mocks his recent appearance in a Hollywood superhero movie as a barista: “Here’s your latte, Mr Thanos” said in cod-Yorkshire brogue.
From a musical welcome by the Scottish music hall and vaudeville star Harry Lauder, to a series of faux pas meeting his fellow cast members and crew of Two Doors Down (“like a minor Royal visiting a community garden”), the plan to become a better version of himself gets off to a flying stop.
In trying to see himself through different eyes, there is a parallel journey of viewing Scotland in all its variety from fresh perspectives too. From first observing Scotland through a London lens then after moving to Glasgow, he is then forced to see the Scottish Central belt from the viewpoint of Scots who don’t live in Glasgow or Edinburgh on a trip north to the Highlands to try out his newly-acquired basic Gaelic.
The laughs come at a phenomenal rate. A bewildering number of belly laughs confirms that Kieran Hodgson is simply one of the funniest performers we have at the moment. What truly impresses is the guileful structure Hodgson creates to, piece by piece, deliver Big In Scotland‘s compassionate message about identity, both personal and national. It is comedy architecture that even Gothic Perpendicular would envy.
In a show about transformations, it really is about time that Kieran Hodgson went from Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee to Edinburgh Comedy Award winner!
Còig rionnagan airson an duine èibhinn a – ★★★★★ 5 stars