‘Please end up together.’ ‘Please end up together.’ ‘Please end up together.’ This is what I was thinking as Kieran Hodgson rounded up Maestro – his comedic opus. The stand-up chronicles four cringed episodes from Hodgson’s romantic history; all told through the prism of the symphony he has been writing since his youth. The first movement is inspired by Lucy, his first girlfriend at age 11; a brief relationship tortured by unspoken emotions. It is bookended nicely by the fourth and final movement that crescendos in a rom-comesque sprint through the Chunnel train station, culminating satisfyingly in Hodgson finally expressing his feelings to a deserving paramour.
Yet in the midst of this almost Hollywood-like arc are hilarious and astute analyses of pre-pubescent nerdy snobbery and the pretensions of the classical music world. Hodgson’s spirit guide and the audience’s narrator is Austrian composer Gustav Mahler – Hodgson’s obsession since primary school.
Hodgson has a mastery of accents and embodies the dramatis personae of each story’s supporting characters. Highlights include the sex-dipped French accent of Celine, his brief relationship on University exchange, and Tawo, his Venezuelan roommate who he reads as English – ‘so as not to offend’ – but who retains the idioms and tense changes of a non-English-as-first-language speaker. A hilarious dissonance. Mahler’s accent also varies, in some interjections expressed by ‘an Austrian portraying an Austrian’ Christoph Waltz, Andrew Scott, ‘the actor that plays Moriarty in Sherlock’, as well as ‘Kieren Hodgson lookalike’ David Tenant. Yet, perhaps the most memorable imitation is that of the condescendingly calm classical radio show host and their teeth-grinding six-composer discography.
Each romantic pitfall informs the tone of each movement of the symphony and Hodgson’s own violin work reflects this: the hesitancy of his first love is plucky, the devastation of his unrequited university fixation who feasted on an ‘all you can eat buffet of his [Hodgson’s] emotions’ is intensely melancholic. This musicality provides a tight structure that Hodgson’s seemingly unbounded comedic repertoire would otherwise overflow. Maestro is as romantic and optimistic a stand-up you’re likely to see; as undeniably sweet as it is funny.