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Damian Kingsley: Work In Progress
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DeadBadgers Sketchy Bits
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Do Not Adjust Your Stage
Do The Right Thing
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Don't Like Each Other
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Daniel Kitson: Where Once Was Wonder
Thirty Four years old, predictably fond of snacks, surprisingly capable at sport and increasingly uncertain about absolutely everything - Daniel Kitson – Comedian, Legend and Intermittent Tool –tries to work out what he actually thinks about things whilst demanding people pay money to watch.
A new stand-up comedy show about impossibility, change, not joining in, love, haircuts, loneliness, courage, defiance, knowledge, despondency, cutting the head off a pig, meaning, tattoos, obscenity, opinions, truth and something a Spanish footballer once said. *
*Other topics may be addressed in addition to or in place of the topics listed here.
Daniel Kitson: Where Once Was Wonder
It’s a plaintive cry that goes out in a million tearful, drunken arguments: ‘You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am…’ Well, Where Once Was Wonder offers Daniel Kitson’s infinitely more eloquent, nuanced and ambiguous take on the same idea.
First impressions count; and the most striking thing here is that the once-hirsute Kitson is shorn of the scraggly beard and unkempt hair that, much to his chagrin, came to define him. Piqued that a look like his, complete with thick-rimmed glasses and cardigans, somehow became hijacked as a cuddly, earthy ‘brand’ by soulless marketers, he boldly took to the razor and now appears clean-shaven and almost entirely bald. He admits it’s a ‘departure, head-wise’.
But rest assured, he is no stand-up Samson, and his powers of tender, insightful, opinionated comedy remain intact. Which is a good job, since this is about 100 minutes of a man talking largely about why he shaved his beard off.
Or more precisely, it’s a show about identity. About how we are defined by our appearance, our friends, or our deeds.
Or, in Kitson’s own words, it’s a show about life (what show isn’t?) which he considers ‘a series of impossible things that slowly become inevitable’. And that explains the title.
This is told through three main stories, the beard-shaving; his rash decision to declare his unrequited to love to a friend; and the time he found himself cutting the head off a baby pig. But far from being straightforward anecdotes, these allow Kitson to muse on the big issues such as individuality and despondency, as well as offering his opinions on more everyday matters, such as tattoos and the British stand-up boom.
The latter subject prompts expected complaints about the commoditisation of comedy and his fears of becoming part of it, which is why he shuns any sort of media profile.
But, perhaps afraid of being pigeonholed, there are deliberately less certainties in his viewpoint than you might expect, and the entire, elegantly constructed narrative is built on such shifting sands, which means he tweaks expectations delightfully. But it also suits his contradictory nature of a grumpy misanthropist who romanticises what humans are truly capable of.
This is Kitson’s first straight stand-up show in a while, but lack of staging aside, it is thematically not too far removed from his more recent theatrical monologues, save that the pensive stories are about himself, rather than some fictional construct. Certainly the mesmerising storytelling is intact.
But alongside articulate periods of navel-gazing about the human condition, the format allows him to break the storyteller’s fourth wall, and sporadically inject more of his own personality – and more silliness – into the mix.
For although he has a hard-earned reputation as a comedy philosophiser, he’s not above using the oldest and corniest pun about being ‘in denial’ about something. Yet while his persistence and playfulness makes this gag transcend the lame wordplay, he nonetheless celebrates it at the same time. And this naffness comes from a man who minutes later is musing on life being the ‘incremental death of hope’, in one of the segments that momentarily put the chuckles on hold while he supplies the intelligent context.
Of course, someone as self-aware as Kitson knows his own brilliance, and boasts about it endlessly. But he achieves what Ricky Gervais can only dream of doing – making the unseemly arrogance seem tongue-in-cheek and endearing, rather than simply rampant, unpleasant egotism. That he is a master of language and imagery certainly helps, and his extended analogy about his conversational potency, prompted by an exchange with a witlessly cynical New York bookseller, is hilariously sublime.
In one of his many pithy lines that deserve a place in a future book of quotations, Kitson offers the opinion that ‘certainty is a failure of imagination’. But there’s no uncertainty that this is another beautiful show by a comedian who continues to demonstrate the peaks of emotional complexity of which stand-up is capable – while still ensuring a steady flow of laughs.
|Date of live review: Wednesday 4th Apr, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
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Stories For The Wobbly-Hearted by Daniel Kitson
Daniel Kitson: After the Beginning . Before the End.
Daniel Kitson: Lover, Thinker, Artist and Prophet
Daniel Kitson: The Impotent Fury Of The Privileged
The Honourable Men Of Art
Daniel Kitson: A Made Up Story
Stand Up For Freedom
Daniel Kitson: Something Perrier winner
Tartan Ribbon Comedy Benefit
The Stonewall Gala
Love Innocence And The Word Cock
Daniel Kitson: It's The Fireworks Talking
Daniel Kitson: Weltanschauung
Honourable Men Of Art 2008
Sixty-Six A Church Road: A Lament, Made Of Memories And Kept In Suitcases, By Daniel Kitson
Daniel Kitson: We Are Gathered Here
The Interminable Suicide Of Gregory Church, by Daniel Kitson
Daniel Kitson: It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later
As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title