Amidst the never-ending Brexit debate, TV Critic Luke Wheeler praises the refreshing take in Channel 4’s ‘How Europe Stole My Mum’
For the last three years Brexit has pervaded British culture, it’s taken over our social media, our news and especially our comedy – every panel show, stand-up set and sit-com seems to have an opinion on the matter. Now, I’m a fan of the self-deprecating, caustic and exasperated comedy that international politics has fuelled over the last few years, but sometimes it’s nice to have a change.
Enter ‘How Europe Stole My Mum’, an hour-long comedy special from Channel 4 written and performed by Kieran Hodgson. Based on his 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show ‘’75’, Hodgson takes viewers on a tour through the history of Britain’s relationship with Europe from the 1970s until the present day. What makes this show so refreshing is the fact that it doesn’t take aim at the politicians or the public, instead, it attempts to humanise and empathise with voters on both sides of the argument.
There are two vehicles for Hodgson’s Brexit exploration; his relationship with his mother and his own research on the history between Britain and Europe. Liza Tarbuck, of TV and Radio 2 fame, takes up the role of Hodgson’s mother, who much to his astonishment, voted to leave the EU. Tarbuck is sprinkled lightly throughout the show but delivers an endearing performance as Hodgson’s mother. In an attempt to understand why his mother voted the opposite way to him, Hodgson ensconces himself in his local library where he is helped by the diligent and eccentric librarian played by Harry Enfield, who fills the role pleasantly with his usual oddball energy.
Now the idea of a comedic take on Anglo-European relations may sound a bit dry, but the interactions between Hodgson, Tarbuck, and Enfield feel organic and authentic, and the impressions of major historical figures that Hodgson delivers as part of his exploration help to lighten the heavy topic and breathe a little levity in to it. This historical element seeks to dispel the idea that there is a single ‘silver bullet’ issue that explains the outcome of the referendum, instead, Hodgson relishes the complexity of the subject matter and attempts to reassure viewers that it is all rather complicated and confusing and that it’s okay to feel that way. Admittedly, I was thankful for my Modern British History A-Level for the first time in a while, as the majority of the impressions might fall a little flat for those who are unfamiliar with the personalities, but all in all they make for an engaging means to explore the complexity of our nation’s history with the EU.
The key reason this show was so enjoyable was its central message of empathy. By using his own mother as the touchstone through which he interacts with leave-voting Britain, Hodgson forces himself into the position of having to engage tentatively with views different to his own, as opposed to the aggressive and partisan means we see online and in the media. Hodgson’s proximity to the rift in British politics means he enters with an open mind and a willingness to appreciate views different to his own, something one is unlikely to find in present political discourse, and as a result ‘How Europe Stole My Mum’ offers a surprisingly emotional and thought-provoking punch. The overarching message of empathy, understanding, and willingness to listen to views different to one’s own will be key to repairing the fracture that haunts Britain today, and Hodgson’s show provides a little insight into how we might achieve that.