Kieran Hodgson is now a Fringe staple with an established following, having produced two Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated shows in Lance and Maestro. This new show, ‘75 (4 stars), follows in their style of detailed storytelling. Hodgson tells us the 2016 EU referendum result caused a schism in his family, so was a microcosm of British society.
But we’ve been here before, he tells us, and 2016 was merely “the cover version”; in 1975 Britain voted—by a much clearer margin—to join the European Economic Community (EEC). Why were we so keen to join then, but so divided now?
So, like the bookish nerd he is, Hodgson took himself off to a library and, helped by a kindly German librarian, he read voraciously about the politicians of the era and the arguments for and against joining the EEC.
What follows is sometimes more like a witty university lecture than a comedy show, but the laughs are plentiful, and Hodgson rolls out a vast range of impressions of British politicians of the era. Ted Heath, Harold Wilson, Enoch Powell and many more are here. Hodgson has unearthed some fascinating nuggets, not least that Heath, who took the UK into Europe, was once in charge of an execution squad in the Second World War to shoot a soldier accused of rape. Heath understood from first-hand experience what a united Europe was capable of achieving, and what depths a divided one could stoop to.
It’s not all dusty books, with Hodgson bringing history alive as he imagines The Beatles advising Harold Macmillan on British foreign policy, and French President Charles de Gaulle reincarnated as RuPaul. Or, most memorably, Labour Party infighting shown through the medium of dance in West Side Story. There’s no big finish and, as becomes clear, no real emotional danger in the show’s framing device, but the laughs keep coming. And you learn a hell of a lot about the UK’s place in Europe.
If the written word is at the heart of '75, then the spoken word is at the heart of Lost Voice Guy’s Inspiration Porn (4 stars), his first at the Fringe since he won Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year. Only his voice, of course, is through a synthesiser controlled by his iPad. Lost Voice Guy, aka Lee Ridley, has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak.
Lost Voice Guy detests the kind of inspirational quotes you see framed in people’s homes; those are peppered throughout the show, and mocked accordingly. Disability doesn’t make him or anybody else nobler, he says, and he makes clear: “This is not an inspirational show.” What it is is a frequently laugh-out-loud hour, with the one-liners faring better than the long-form jokes delivered by the computerised voice, which doesn’t do ironic or sarcastic tones.
Lost Voice Guy talks with wit and insight about his love life, and why a recent relationship failed. But he doesn’t expect or want our sympathy, as he undercuts his tale with a few knob gags, given extra frisson by being spoken in “posh old man” tones. He reuses some of his material from his run on Britain’s Got Talent, but this hour showcases Lost Voice Guy in a more rounded way. He can swear, of course, and he delights in being unPC – he takes down the “super humans” trope about Paralympians for instance, and has devised disabled versions of board games (everyone gets free parking in Monopoly).
But it’s his political material that hits home; Lost Voice Guy doesn’t hold back in his criticism of the Government’s cuts for benefits and services for the disabled. And that it’s done through his version of disability Top Trumps—is he more or less disabled than Stephen Hawking was?—shows what a talented comic he is.
Moon is a two-man sketch group made up of Jack Chisnall and Joshua Dolphin, who describe themselves as two proud sons of England's provincial backwaters. Chisnall and Dolphin are keen to signal that they are not chinless-wonder, private-school types, although they met at university and are Oxford Revue alumni. But they tell us several times that they are proud provincials and this show, Moon (3 stars), comes from a dark place.
They start their hour by ordering an Indian takeaway online for the audience – someone has to have the super hot curry, of course, while far too much rice is ordered. The skit, which has its payoff at the very end of the show, forms a sort of framework for what follows: loosely (sometimes very loosely) connected sketches that range from very clever to incomprehensible. Their stag weekend skit is the show’s highlight, taking its time to set up and develop the gag, and delivering a payoff that is as unexpected as it is funny. Other sketches—a middle-class street dealer selling unusual contraband, and a reunion between a father and son—also go off at pleasing tangents.
There’s a lot of filler here, too, but Chisnall and Dolphin both act well and have mercifully little of the nice guy/nasty guy or friendship-falling-apart double-act tropes. This is a solid debut hour.