Kieran Hodgson talks ‘sugar’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I certainly can, if you can pass me the milk! Well it all began with GCSE Drama, and then stopped two years later with AS-Level Theatre Studies. After that, I just sort of mucked around doing sketches at uni, then formed a sketch group with three friends called Kieran and the Joes. We had a good run, and then circa 2011 I started doing character comedy on my own. This year is solo show number six, Heaven help me. In between I do bits and bobs of radio and telly, but my heart and a large proportion of my bank balance remain at the Fringe.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Well, it’s the story of – sugar, by the way? – how the UK went into the Common Market in the 70s. I’ve had a growing fascination for that period for some time, and it seemed like a fun challenge to bring it to life and make it funny for an audience that might well know nothing about it. For me, the 70s has always been a kind of safe place to run away to in my imagination: I picture my parents falling in love and reading the first edition of the Good Beer Guide and laughing their socks off to Fawlty Towers.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
It’s been sort-of two years in the making. The first year was just research, going down the rabbit hole of biographies and cultural histories and official histories and watching hours and hours of archive footage on YouTube. Then, came the very tough day when I had to try and put all of that into something funny on stage.

Cue the second year. I realised early on that the Europe angle was the way to go to make it a story that needed to be told now. The old adage is that History repeats itself, but that’s rarely completely true as it tends to be that patterns and themes circle and resurface as time goes on in new and unexpected combinations. That is, I think, very much borne out in the UK’s relationship with Europe, and taking the long view back to the 70s on this you see the maddening complexity and intractability of the problem goes far deeper than ‘oh isn’t Boris silly’. The story, and hopefully the show, are littered with echoes to nowadays, and I set out at the beginning with the conviction that looking back can definitely help me process what’s happening following the 2016 Referendum. But is that the case? Or is there just greater confusion? And do you want a top up?

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
As a performer I never have any idea how I survive. It’s always a good tactic to get really ill in the first week, maybe just in time for your first show, so that you slow down a bit and aren’t knocking back the Bacardis ’til four in the morning. For visitors, I would say don’t try to survive. This isn’t a holiday, this is a cultural supernova. See as much as you can and don’t stop until you’re comatose on the train back home.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
My show three years ago – oh look, there’s a little shortbread! – was about cycling, and contained a line about how it had the worst commentators in all of sport. Always got a chuckle but then one night a huge boo erupted from the back of the audience. A load of cycling commentators had turned up to see the show and were not happy. Bought them a round afterwards and they seemed mollified. The joke stayed in the show.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I think I’m a bit odd because I tend to get inspiration from people who aren’t really in the industry at all. Maybe, that’s a problem. I’m often inspired by people like classical composers, politicians, cyclists and engineers. I think because I’m just very intimidated by other artists and can’t really imagine being able to emulate them. I mean, Tom Hanks in the final scene of Captain Phillips: how do you do that???

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
A packet of Hula Hoops and playing Snake on my old Nokia phone. A game of limitless therapeutic value.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I cannot wait to see ‘Mr Swallow And The Vanishing Elephant’. Nick Mohammed just makes me scream with laughter and I know he’s going to be doing something truly spectacular this year. Our time slots clash, though, so I need your loyal readers to buy lots of tickets for him so that he can do an extra show and I can see him then. I think everyone should also see Sheeps, Emma Sidi, Tessa Coates, Rory O’Keeffe, Ben Target, The Pin, oh what a great year this is for us all!

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
I don’t think it’s an either/or. I’ll refer you to my previous advice for visitors to the Fringe – see me and thousands of others! I’m offering a story, fun characters, hopefully one or two things to think about, but then after that you should see a big cool circus thing, and then an angry political stand-up, and then a heartbreaking play, and then some folk-jazz in a church, and then maybe…have another cup of tea to recharge your batteries. Speaking of which, shall we…?

See Kieran Hodgson: ‘75 at the Pleasance Courtyard throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1st – 26th August.


Buy tickets to West End theatre shows (some great discounted offers)
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest theatre news, special offers and competitions