Review: Wil Hodgson: Kidnapped By Catwoman – The Stand (4), Edinburgh.
Not many have turned up, but Wil Hodgson doesn’t seem to mind. Shuffling onstage, the Chippenham-born comedian begins the show in his low key south western burr. Kidnapped by Catwoman is one man’s attempt to come to terms with his sexual fantasies, delving into his past to find what shapes his behaviour today.
One thing that becomes immediately noticeable is the incredibly low punch-line ratio running through the show. Wil speaks quickly and intelligently, illustrating his points with a slide show he has created especially for the event. The rapid, conversational style is well thought-out and involving, but jokes are left gasping for air in the torrent of verbal diarrhoea. When they do arrive it is clear they have certain potential, but Hodgson never leaves them enough time to settle. The end result feels more like a mildly amusing lecture than a properly formed comedy show, Hodgson even castigating himself at one point in recognition of this fault.
That’s not to say Hodgson is dull company. Many of his topics are interesting and well researched, his knowledge of comic book history in particular proving to be an engaging listen. Some of the subject matter, however, is a little more troubling. The experience of being bullied obviously weighs heavily on Hodgson, a dark intensity clouding his face as he stares out into the audience. Rather than twist his experience into comic potential, he is often content to let the subject hang in the air, creating an occasionally uncomfortable atmosphere in the room.
As it moves along, it becomes apparent that Kidnapped by Catwoman is primarily a gentle exploration of sexual fantasy. Starting with early childhood, Hodgson gives us a startlingly intimate portrayal of his sexual behaviours. To his credit, the sexual frankness never feels gratuitous, more expressing a need to explore himself and what makes him tick. While the honesty and careful handling of a sensitive topic should be applauded, the show often strays into territory that needn’t be shared. Displaying film stills of scenes that titillated the young Hodgson comes off as unpleasantly obsessional rather than humorous, and constant reference to Sapphic pleasures labour the point a little.
“This is the least mainstream thing I have ever done,” Hodgson admits at the close. And Kidnapped by Catwoman is certainly challenging; touching intelligently on transvestism, homophobia and feminism among other themes, there is simply not enough humour here to recommend this deeply confessional portrait as a show worth seeing.
Date of live review: Friday 10th August 2012.