Kieran Hodgson is a stunningly gifted storyteller. Following-up last year’s French Exchange, a comedy reminiscence about a GCSE trip, he returns with Lance, another autobiographical tale, about his relationship with boyhood hero turned disgraced drug cheat, Mr. Armstrong. It starts with a boyscout cycling challenge, ends with a resolution of sorts at last year’s Tour de Yorkshire and in between packs poignancy, wistfulness, affection, cynicism and stupidity into a very funny hour. You will struggle to find a better free show anywhere than this.
Hodgson uses a panoply of well-defined characters to carry his story along. Ostensibly, they’re his childhood and student acquaintances, but they’re so perfectly drawn, they’re everybody’s – the slightly drippy scoutmaster, the “cool” friend who’s really not all that. His rowing club buddy holding court in a bar is so hilariously perfect that there must have been one or two red-trousered Pimms-quaffers whose ears were burning. And then there’s Lance himself, sagely mentoring Hodgson and his teenage pals.
Lance finds its strength in all sorts of ways though. Hodgson, clad in yellow jersey (what else?), makes his storytelling very visual. An exercise bike sees regular use, but its the way he moves around the space skipping from character to character that give the piece a momentum that carries the audience with it. There’s even a first class light operatic pastiche, Come To The South, mockingly sung to entice Hodgson’s young self to make the right university choice; it seems to have humour in virtually every line.
If there’s a weakness, it’s its tendency to the parochial. There’s a lot of material about the North/South divide, and Yorkshire (and I say that as a Yorkshireman myself), but there’s so much universal stuff it scarcely matters. This would bear much repeated watching.