Henning Wehn : Westphalia Is Not An Option
(Durham Gala Theatre)
One of the first things that Henning Wehn does is to apologise for the distinctly un-Getman way that the show will start a few minutes late. It’s a theme he will return to through the evening, and one which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who is familiar with him.
The self-styled, ‘German Comedy Ambassador’ effectively acts as his own warm-up, doing a quick thirty minutes in lieu of a support act, which he used to introduce himself to the audience, and also to get a feel for the room. He is largely amiable, and has a slightly rambling discursive style which, if you like it, is rather charming. Luckily I do.
The main part of the evening is Henning’s rumination on being a foreigner living in another country. He muses about the problems that immigrants to the UK have with adapting to our idiosyncrasies, the weirdness of our language (especially the regions – the vagaries of the north east figure too), not to mention some of the stranger aspects of our culture. He considers how much “at home” he feels here, and how this might change. He’s looking at becoming a UK citizen, so there’s a brief diversion into the Citizenship Test. He also talks about the British attitude to diversity, and our inability to say things that are, in the end, obvious. He does this with the use of visual aids (laminated pictures of footballers to be precise) that also generate a little, though not too much, audience participation.
Some of the material is not what you’d call politically correct. But that’s the point. The discussion of these issues is nuanced, and he deliberately but gently pokes around the edges to good effect. It’s a sign of this that, occasionally, the audience don’t quite know how to take it. But then, one of the promises of the show is that it would “really make you think”.
So, to answer the question the he poses right at the show’s start: is Henning an immigrant? Well, yes he is. But what on earth is the problem with that?