ComedyNorth WestReviewStand Up

Henning Wehn: Westphalia is Not an Option – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

“The German Comedy Ambassador to Great Britain” returns to The Lowry to perform his new show: Westphalia is Not an Option, admitting it’s a bit daunting as he is playing “the big room.” Wehn says this may be his biggest gig to date: a clear indication that his star is on the rise. With numerous appearances on television and radio panel shows such as Have I Got News for You and The Unbelievable Truth, it’s little wonder that Wehn is playing the bigger theatres and he is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s best loved comics. It is easy to see why with his friendly, easy going delivery. This is comedy with some weight behind it but delivered in a friendly, cheeky manner.

Arriving on stage to the Westphalia theme tune, Wehn gives us a brief introduction to the genesis of the show. With the recent EU referendum and impending ‘Brexit’, should he class himself as an immigrant? He doesn’t feel like an immigrant as he felt no hardship. What follows is a look at how Britain allowed him to follow his passion and become a stand-up comic.  We get a hilarious look at the cultural differences between the UK and Germany – focusing on how us ‘Brits’ love a failure story and wear them like a badge of pride whereas this wouldn’t go down well back in Germany. Closing the first part of the show with a sing-along where audience participation is encouraged, we are duped into singing a Nazi anthem. It is taken in the spirit in which it’s meant and says a great deal about preconceptions and ignorance.

Following the interval comes the crux of the show: his take as an outsider on Britain’s attitude to race and culture. He bluntly points out, “I always thought, to qualify as an immigrant you had to move somewhere better,” when talking about his move to UK from Germany some 14 years ago. Wehn challenges our attitudes towards race with a unique and hilarious game of odd-one-out highlighting just afraid we are to discuss skin colour and nationality.

Westphalia is Not an Option tackles some weighty issues: the hypocrisy of a system where immigrants are demonised for allegedly abusing the welfare state, while we idly sit by doing nothing about multi-national companies avoiding paying tax or foreign billionaires buying up property in London.

Wehn’s main strength is that he is instantly likeable; his delivery is always done with a grin and a smile. He masterfully pushes the envelope of political correctness. Wehn manages to keep the material entertaining and provocative. This was a fun, thought-provoking routine and Wehn is receiving the credit he deserves. Would it be wrong to suggest that Wehn is adopted as a national treasure? The display of the English heritage flag at the close of the show certainly didn’t look out of place.

Reviewed on 22 October 2016 | Image: Contributed

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