Kieran Hodgson: From Two Doors Down to the Edinburgh Fringe

kieran-hodgson:-from-two-doors-down-to-the-edinburgh-fringe

Kieran HodgsonImage source, Mihaela Bodlovic

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Kieran Hodgson says the Edinburgh Fringe is “the most extraordinary place to have something approaching total freedom artistically”

By Nichola Rutherford

BBC Scotland News

After Kieran Hodgson took a job on BBC Scotland sitcom Two Doors Down, he made a life-changing decision.

The Yorkshire-born comedian, who had been pursuing a relatively successful comedy career in London, relocated to Glasgow.

Moving 400 miles away from the UK’s comedy hub may have appeared an unorthodox move for a comic whose career was just taking off.

But his gamble on the gentle BBC Two comedy series about a group of neighbours in a Scottish suburb paid off.

A slow-burn success with a cult following, the show has graduated to a prime time spot on BBC One for its seventh series, which is due to be broadcast this autumn.

Another series is expected next year and there are rumours of plans for a live show.

In fact, Hodgson’s new home is proving no barrier to his thriving career – last Christmas he won acclaim for playing the title role in Channel 4 satire Prince Andrew: The Musical, which he also wrote.

And he scored a viral hit with his two-minute YouTube parody of Happy Valley – a skill he honed in his front room during lockdown.

Image source, BBC Studios

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Hodgson is the only Englishman in the Two Doors Down cast

In Two Doors Down, Hodgson’s flat northern vowels stand out in a cast of some of Scotland’s best-known actors, including Alex Norton and Arabella Weir.

He plays Gordon, their son’s vegetarian, eager-to-please partner.

The simplicity of the show’s concept makes it the “easiest pitch in the world and the hardest pitch”, Hodgson tells BBC News.

“It’s about a normal street, a normal family and some neighbours. But try convincing someone that’s going to be a successful comedy. There’s no idea there. It’s all about the execution and the casting.”

Tragically, days after Hodgson spoke to BBC News, one of the creators of Two Doors Down, Simon Carlyle, died at the age of 48, sparking an outpouring from his friends and fans.

In a post on X – formerly Twitter – Hodgson shared a tribute to Carlyle from his co-writer Gregor Sharp, in which he explained that the show’s success was down to the “comedy of recognition”.

“It was people seeing the truth of those characters and recognising people from their own lives in them,” Sharp wrote in the Guardian.

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Simon Carlyle, who wrote Two Doors Down with Gregor Sharp, died last week age 48

Behind the scenes, Hodgson, 35, has worked hard to develop an authentic west of Scotland accent.

He sought the help of Two Doors Down co-stars Elaine C Smith and wrestler-turned-actor Grado in nailing down the brogue.

It’s one of a series of Scottish accents he has developed during meticulous 18-month preparation for his new Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, Big in Scotland.

A dramatic reinterpretation of his life since relocating three years ago, for Hodgson it’s also akin to an “accent Olympics”.

“I’m trying to get them right because I think so often English people have a go at a Scottish accent in a way that is quite offensive,” he says. “I thought I could get around that by being as accurate as possible.

“Grado has one of the richest and most beautiful accents that I’d ever heard,” he adds. “But all the rules are different, all the vowels are different. He uses a great many dialect words.

“I hope I didn’t annoy him over the years that we have known one another. I keep asking him, ‘You said that, could you repeat that? I’m interested in you using that particular word.’

“He complimented me once – he said, ‘You understand most of what I say, don’t you Kieran?’ I said yes, but occasionally I have to ask him to slow down and repeat.”

Image source, BBC Studios

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Hodgson says his Ayrshire-born co-star Grado has “one of the richest and most beautiful accents”

Hodgson’s Edinburgh show is an informed outsider’s perspective of Scotland, with uniquely Scottish references to variety star Harry Lauder, square sausages and Arnold Clark, the car dealership, among other things.

Even the issue of Scottish independence is not off the table, although Hodgson knows it’s a potentially career-wrecking subject for an English comedian to tackle.

“I would say that my understanding of the issue has deepened and my opinions remain clouded and changeable, the more I understand,” he says.

“I think Scots have far more complicated feelings about it than English people might imagine they do. The longer I live here, the more complicated my feelings get as well.

“I couldn’t tell you which way I’m going to vote. And even if I could, I wouldn’t because I don’t want to shut off half my audience.”

Image source, Channel 4

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Hodgson played the title role in Prince Andrew: The Musical on Channel 4

The son of two teachers, Hodgson was brought up in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, which is most famous for being the setting of Last of the Summer Wine.

Although the family were not fans of the long-running Sunday night sitcom, he harboured an ambition for comedy.

He followed the only route he knew, landing a place at Oxford University and immediately joining the student sketch group.

It was as part of that group that he made his first appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007, and he has since become a highly-regarded regular.

The reception to his 2015 show Lance – about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong – allowed him to pursue a full-time career in comedy.

“It’s made my career,” he says. “I set about comedy in an old-fashioned way. In doing it my way, coming to Edinburgh every year, trying to do a better show each time, trying to improve, trying to build up from small rooms to big rooms, from small audiences to big audiences, it’s been my breakthrough.”

Five years (and a pandemic) since his last show, he is feeling the pressure and knows that thanks to Two Doors Down, he is likely to attract a bigger audience this time.

“I respect the Fringe. I think it’s the most extraordinary place to have something approaching total freedom artistically, which is quite rare in comedy when you’re not a mainstream stand-up, as I am not,” he says.

“Trying to express yourself often has to go through the medium of commissioners and television people, and there are always limitations.

“I know the Fringe has its problems in terms of access and costs it places on the acts. I think it’s an incredible place where dreams can come true.”

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