Kieran Hodgson: Lance | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Invisible Dot, London

Kieran Hodgson: Lance

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Invisible Dot, London

Nostalgic biographical comedies are all the rage on the TV at the moment, and in that sepia-tinted spirit Kieran Hodgson takes us all the way back to the halcyon days of… 2003.

At the time he was a keen Boy Scout and even keener cyclist, in training for the Holme Valley Mountain Bike Challenge in his attempts to emulate Lance Armstrong, back when he was still a sporting hero.

That’s the set-up for this tour-de-force about the Tour De France, which won Hodgson an Edinburgh Comedy Award nod this summer, and is now back in London. Billed as a character comedy piece, its strength is in the storytelling. Set pieces are one thing, but it’s the context that keeps things compelling.

It also lends a credibility to Hodgson’s personalities, who we immediately believe are based on real people. Our protagonist is one of a group of three friends: one much cooler than him, one weirder – making online videos with nunchucks. But all things are relative, they all are bonded by being outsiders.

The coming-of-age bit comes as Hodgson leaves this West Yorkshire life to study in the South, lured by an apparition who sings its praises the sort of wry ditty that wouldn’t be out of place in a Simpsons episode, funny, tuneful and mischievously playful with the North-South divide.

In the tale of his pedal-powered endeavours, Hodgson takes on many personas, from the punctilious Scout leader (‘On your marks, get set, and let’s have a bit of a safety notice’) to a hapless local news reporter imparting zero information; or from the object of the teens’ unrequited love, to Armstrong himself, appearing as a spirit guide to urge the cyclists to Just Do It©.

They all seem vividly real. Even the super-confident uni ‘lad’ coaching the rowing team before urging his chums to ‘ ‘Let the Apocalash begin!’ is taken away from stereotype by being so perfectly well-observed, not just a series of brash, boastful comments.

Yet while story is all, Hodgson doesn’t neglect jokes, and there are plenty of blind-siders here, while the whole story is given a droll air by a knowing subtext, which occasionally pops to the surface with asides about Hodgson’s career decisions.

As the Tour De France comes to Yorkshire, several years on, the narrative builds to a beautiful climax, which manages to be both heartwarming and deeply cynical at the same time, with perfect logic. It’s a screenwriter’s dream ending, adding to a show that already has a cinematic feel thanks to Hodgson’s vivid portrayal and convincing performance.

Review date: 4 Nov 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: 2 Northdown

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