Kieran Hodgson: Big In Scotland | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Kieran Hodgson: Big In Scotland

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Taking to the stage in his tartan jacket, Kieran Hodgson  opens the show with a bold: ‘Yes, I’m Scottish’ in an accent that’s decidedly not Scottish.

But we must respect how people identify themselves and three years ago, Hodgson moved from London to Glasgow when he joined the cast of BBC sitcom Two Doors Down, so now he knows all about the Scots. And there’s nothing a proud son of Alba appreciates more than an Oxford-educated Englishman telling hem all about their homeland.

Go expecting ‘och aye the noo ‘ jokes about deep-fried Mars Bars bagpipes and Irn-Bru, though, and you’ll have another think coming. Well, except for the Irn-Bru, that does get a mention, given its genuine place in the national character.

For while Hodgson rides the pantomime boos about his nationality and during an anti-independence rant, it soon emerges that he has done his homework. He’s able to paint a detailed picture of his adoptive homeland, with affectionate digs at all sorts of Scots he’s met and their more subtle traits, all from a position of knowledge and keen observation rather than merely drawing on tired stereotypes that have passed down the ages.

However, the butt of most the jokes in this layered  piece is Hodgson himself, first for his colonising attitude to the locals, second for his misplaced attempts to become ‘Scottish Kieran’, adopting all the good parts of the national psyche – as if there was just one – and shed his patronising, self-important, emotionally repressed Englishness which caused him to stuff up the best man’s speech at his old friend’s wedding.

His investigations into himself and his new home become involved and engrossing. Hodgson’s performance first appears a little aloof; friendly enough but with the calm, measured tone of a chatty lecture. But as he gets deeper into the story, it starts teeming with life, his performance increasingly animated as the cast of characters grows and grows.

He’s an expert mimic and conjures up all manner of Scots, from Gordon Brown to music hall act Harry Lauder – complete with a jaunty song – as well as fictional amalgams such as the aggressively parochial  Highland barman, tough Glaswegian working-class families, and his Gaelic teacher who addresses the class like the primary school kids she normally works with.

It’s a tightrope act to be able to mock his hosts – both at Glasgow and at this festival – in such a way, but he English-Scottish rivalry gives the many gags an added frisson. And Hodgson navigates it deftly, with a genuine interest in Scottish heritage, geography and culture shining through, even if he is still learning about all that, and about himself.

Big In Scotland is a great yarn that deserves to be a great hit both at the Fringe and outwith it.

Review date: 7 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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