Daniel Kitson: A Made Up Story

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

Daniel Kitson's first post-Perrier show is not stand-up, but storytelling. It might be a something of a diversion in style, but the themes and sentiments it explores will be familiar to anyone who enjoyed last year's tender festival offering.

For a different kind of performance, a different kind of venue. The new Pod is like a smaller, posher circus tent - so much so that you wouldn't be surprised if the acts arrived tootling their horn in a tiny, shoddily built car.

But despite the Little Top setting, this is not Kitson in clown mode, this has aspirations of Art. But, ironically, it's those very abilities to play the jester which stop this show from collapsing under the weight of its pretensions.

What unfolds, to the accompaniment of grainy video footage and an angsty indie soundtrack, is a naïve and romantic story about naïve and romantic characters. Misanthropes to a certain extent, but only because they are all disappointed that real people cannot live up to the ideals they seek - traits which sounds very much like our narrator's.

The key players are the 'OK-looking' Dora who lives a nocturnal existence, seeking adventures; a lovelorn boy called Beth who believes it is better never to have loved at all than to have loved and lost; an odd old man who dispenses wisdom at a suburban bus stop; and suicidal Al, who provides the comic relief.

It's a real romantic comedy - not in the Hollywood sense of an apparently mismatched couple meeting, fighting and ultimately realising they are in love sort of way, but in a dreamy, magical, slightly quirky sort of way.

It's essentially a simplistic fairytale, though, uncomplicated by real life and real concerns. Most probably it will appeal most to navelgazing, love-sick teenagers, full of yearning and self-doubt - the same target audience as the mournful rock music accompanying the show. Switch off any adult cynicism, and it all works fine.

Substantial elements of this wistful tale, such as the bureaucratic bus driver and the uneasy adult confrontation with teenagers, have been run out in Kitson's stand-up, where they've already proved to work well. Plus he has a natural gift to be able to say anything in the funniest way, which ensures the whimsy still comes with a punchline.

Furthermore, he doesn't forget his comedian's instincts to deviate from the script and address the moment, should anything distract from the narrative. And with a canvas-walled venue, that's pretty much inevitable.

By choosing storytelling, Kitson is stepping into the same arena as some pretty heavyweight, serious writers and performers, and he's likely to come off worse by comparison. But judged as a stand-up attempting, in the true spirit of the Fringe, something a little different, then A Made Up Story can be seen as a reasonable, if flawed, success.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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