Kieran Hodgson: '75 | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Kieran Hodgson: '75

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

BBC founder Lord Reith would bloody love Kieran Hodgson’s ’75, a show that epitomises his famous mantra to ‘inform, educate and entertain’. 

You are guaranteed to emerge from 60 compelling minutes in this 30-year-old’s company with a thorough understanding of the political fault lines beneath Britain’s tumultuous relationship with the European Union over the past six decades. 

Now that might not be your No.1 aim when weighing up your entertainment options for an evening, but this engaging double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee injects the history lesson with personal drama, whip-smart jokes and performance flourishes that bring verve and wit to this potentially dry subject matter

As a young gay man working in the arts and living in metropolitan London, of course Hodgson’s voted Remain; while as a Northern working-class woman of an older generation, his mother is the epitome of a nostalgic-seeking Leave voter.  And it’s for the resolution of that tension, which exploded in a visceral but ill-meant insult, that led him to the history books.

It took him back to 1963, when Harold Macmillan’s bid to join the Common Market was vetoed by Charles De Gaulle; to Edward Heath taking Britain into the European Community in 1972; to the in-out referendum of 1975, called by Harold Wilson to patch over deep divisions in his ruling party (sound familiar?); and to Margaret Thatcher’s shifting stance towards Brussels.

At times this show sounds like a throwback to the top-rated Mike Yarwood variety specials of the 1970s as talented mimic Hodgson impersonates the political big BEASTS of the era. You could fairly Roy Jenkins impressions are not exactly ‘one for the kids’.

Politically, ’75 is nuanced: the liberal comic at one point finds himself praising a Tory Prime Minister because of Heath’s impeccable principals; shifts his position on whether Brexit was inevitable or not based on the facts he unearths; and ends up idolising Wilson – a fellow Huddersfield lad – for his pragmatic compromises, and love of a sandwich.

This is all catnip for political nerds, but Hodgson wears the learning lightly. His bookishness is one of the running gags, his obsessive personality another. And if he overachieved in childhood endeavours that didn’t require friends, he continues to overachieve today with delightful mini-sketches peppering this taut monologue that showcase his many talents.

Political infighting is envisaged via musical theatre – a sort of Westminster Side Story; he imagines the Beatles as a single entity living next door to Macmillan to usher in the Swinging Sixties, while De Gaulle’s intransigence is explained by the medium of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

’75 is incredibly dense in both laughs and information, yet never seems so. It's not half as niche as it sounds, and ten times funnier. And my do we need a unifying laugh over this most toxic of debates.

Review date: 7 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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