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The Interminable Suicide Of Gregory Church, by Daniel Kitson - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

The Interminable Suicide Of Gregory Church is everything you would come to expect from Daniel Kitson’s now traditional annual monologue: a fanciful, tender and romanticised story of a glimpsed life, full of humanity, pathos and warm wit. It’s another step towards making his surname into an adjective to describe this sort of theatrical delight: Kitsonesque.

This particular fiction starts two years ago, when Kitson was looking to move house. In one rural property he viewed, he was delighted to discover an unexpected loft, which he duly scrabbled into – much to the chagrin of the estate agent. There he discovered 30,659 letters spanning 24 years, including one that particularly caught his eye: a suicide note, still poking out of the antique typewriter.

Intrigued, Kitson acquired the 22 boxes and painstakingly sifted through the correspondence, piecing together a life, letter by letter. It soon becomes apparent that the home’s former owner Gregory Church, first planned to take his own life at the very start of the correspondence, writing 57 letters in succession to put his affairs in order – so why did it take him so long?

As the pieces gradually fall together like a Jigsaw, Kitson forensically fills in the gaps in this stranger’s life, in a story which soon comes to resemble a Dickensian novel with its many strands. Devotees of Kitson’s previous theatrical work will not be surprised to learn Church turns out to be a misunderstood loner, pining for friendship but finding it crippling difficult to make social contact. Devotees of Kitson’s stand-up, on the other hand, might see that he himself finds it easier to get to know people though such detached research and wistful conjecture than it is to just talk to them.

Exchanges between Church and Woodrow Arnold, the grumpy editor of the local newspaper’s letters page, are delightful in their mock-animosity, conducted in such Victorian insults as ‘buffoon’, blowhard’ and ‘self-important miserablist’, the last of which could very conceivably be applied to the storyteller himself.

Church’s contact with Ben McCrae, the bullied schoolboy he spied at the bus stop and followed through university and marriage, shows a keen paternal instinct, while other relationships evaporated as soon as they begin. Unresolved is the matter of Isabel, the person to whom he writes more than any other, and who never received that ultimate missive, written the night before his death.

The unravelling of the truth behind the mysterious Mr Church is as beguiling as it is compelling, proving yet another tender monologue from a master storyteller.

Review date: 15 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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