How do you solve a problem like Brexit? And for dejected Remainers, how can you make it funny? Fortunately, Kieran Hodgson has achieved the near-impossible and made the common market hilarious.
Kieran Hodgson: ’75, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) ****
As revealed in 2016’s Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated Maestro, the Yorkshireman is a confirmed Europhile, declaring love “an infinite Schengen Zone” after meeting his husband on the continent. Besides, he’s always been precociously pretentious, indulged in liberal nerdiness by his mother until they clashed over the 2016 referendum, their respective votes reflecting the countrywide divide.
Retaining Maestro’s personal perspective, while exploring a much wider social and historical panorama, Hodgson harks back to 1975’s referendum on the European Economic Community, then all points back to World War II as he struggles to understand how we got to where we are today. Affording freest expression yet to his exceptional mimicry, his multitude of impressions are impressive for the vivacity with which his political heroes like Ted Heath and Harold Wilson are brought to rounded, wonderfully amusing life.
Equally, the humanity he imbues a bug-eyed, diet-obsessed Enoch Powell with is remarkable, given that he’s largely remembered for a single, unpalatable soundbite. Zeroing in on big personalities as an introduction to policy, Hodgson is guided in his diligent research and flip-flopping opinions by his German, slightly Faustian, local librarian. Yet ‘75 is never dry. It crackles and freely trades in the ridiculous, with a fiercely sassy De Gaulle channelling Ru Paul, Tony Benn adopting Oprah Winfrey’s largesse and Labour Party infighting given the full, finger-clicking West Side Story treatment, the hottest of hot EU takes.
Indeed, like a fever dream, this is rich, thoughtful but belly-laugh stuff from an act whose showy virtuosity as both a character and confessional comic is backed by some outstanding writing. A hugely accomplished storyteller, Hodgson eschews an easy advocacy of Brexit reconciliation in favour of imaginative empathy.
• Until 26 August, 8:15pm