Fringe review – Wil Hodgson

Wil Hodgson – Straight Outta Chippenham

****

PLEASANCE COURTYARD (Venue 33)

IN THIS festival of like-minded, liberal, art-loving people, Wil Hodgson is the ambassador for a very different demographic: the BNP-sympathising, homophobic, casually-violent degenerates of middle England.

Well no, “ambassador” is the wrong word. Hodgson was born, raised and evidently still lives in the small Wiltshire town that bears the show’s name, but as a chubby, mascara-wearing, pink-mohawked punk, he’d be better described as an outsider on the inside of this community.

Visually and verbally, Hodgson is something to behold. The one-time wrestler strides on to the spot-lit stage, grabs the microphone and enters into a ten-minute skit on the finer points of My Little Pony collecting, with all the zeal of a daytime-TV antiques expert. Soon bursts of laughter escape from the darkness before most of the audience are left grinning with incredulity at Hodgson’s obsessive outer monologue.

Using all the descriptive detail of a performance poet, Hodgson then transports us to Chippenham, with its cast of bitter middle-aged men, polo-shirted louts and intimidating hen parties. We accompany Hodgson on one of his solitary pub crawls amid these suburban tribes, during which he meets a heavily tattooed ex-con in one particularly unsavoury den.

Strangely enough, as Hodgson recounts, the unlikely pair get on at first, sharing a penchant for true crime novels and a bawdy appreciation of Fern Britton. (After all, Hodgson prefers “real women”, as he tells us in a savagely funny rant about the skinny orange creatures of Nuts magazine.) But the camaraderie can’t last, and when this drinking mate reverts to small-minded swipes at paedophiles and speed cameras, Hodgson makes good his escape.

Wil Hodgson sets his sights firmly at the stale core of the middle English mindset, taking on the stifling ignorance of the tabloid agenda from an utterly original angle. He is unlike any other stand-up today, a self-enforced social outcast who has chosen to remain in his own hellishly-portrayed hometown as some sort of comedic anthropologist. His humour is eccentric, yet authentic and no-one could deny that Hodgson is a brilliantly captivating performer.

Until 27 August. Today at 10.40pm

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