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The Passion Of The Hodgson

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

After wading through hundreds of identikit stand-ups, Wil Hodgson could be something of a comic epiphany for anyone brave enough to venture into the Holyrood Tavern. He doesn't look, sound or act like anyone you will meet this year but, most importantly, none of that is important when watching his intriguing debut show.

Yet, there is something highly elusive about Hodgson, as if it is difficult to pin down exactly why he is such a captivating storyteller, buthis anecdotes are expertly crafted with the wit and intelligence one's preconceptions may not expect of a man who lists his previous professions as professional wrestler and Chippenham skinhead.

Instead of opting for the laugh-a-minute approach, Hodgson holds the attention of the room by speaking in an relentless West Country monotone ­ one that should be dull, but is actually oddly fascinating. He focuses on one audience member and stares, serving to focus the intensity of his tales for everybody. He is a true individual storyteller for the jilted generation, one with all the potential to be a cult hero.

Stories about such topics as a primary school quoit race are actually classical narratives of good triumphing over evil under the most adverse of circumstances, transposed onto a contemporary world where people have to constantly fight to overcome preconception. Hodgson likes to immerse himself in innocence, but has been justifiably jaded by the presence of such social evils as racism and bigotry, forcing him to take his own action. Some of the show's best moments are when Hodgson plans individual torture for those he dislikes the most.

The material is fairly solid, with each story being as distinctive and engrossing as the next and always implying an old-fashioned moral. By concentrating on longer stories and anecdotes collected from his background, Hodgson ensures that the hour flies by, and comes across as a genuinely interesting man.

A show this unorthodox is never going to be for everyone's tastes; some may prefer a more raucous approach to stand-up, whilst others may find the show difficult to engage with, particularly considering the idiosyncratic style. Yet, being individual has never, ever been a bad thing in any sector of culture, and those who make an effort to seek out the Fringe's best-kept secret will most likely not be disappointed.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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