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Daniel Kitson: As Of...: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Like many a writer-performer, Daniel Kitson is afraid of being pigeonholed. Admittedly the pigeonhole he fits into is labelled ‘genius creator of moving one-man shows about the stoic beauty of loneliness’ so it’s not entirely a disaster.

But he’s a little vexed – he’s very easily vexed – that people seem to think this comes easy to him, and doesn’t involve ‘staring at a blank page until your forehead bleeds’ as Gene Fowler famously put it. He’s also taken umbrage at the  possible criticism that he can only write in one voice, his own, no matter who the character speaking.

His response is to sit down and write a fully-cast play that steers clear of the poignant topics his legions of fans expect. Which is fine except for the writer’s block. Should he write about the writer’s block? No, he argues, ‘It’s the idea everyone has when they cannot think of anything else’, even if that’s what the wonderfully oblique title suggests.

Instead he writes about the process of storytelling itself. The cast didn’t quite make it, though. Kitson sits behind a trestle table on a stage empty except for bits of set from other shows, carefully stacked away. The auditorium is lit, not even with house lights, but with the stark fluorescent bulbs that would normally only be used when there’s no audience about.

And so he reads the play he wrote; a story of Max, a noble, quirky outsider with a mysterious back story  (naturally) interspersed with scenes in which the semi-fictional version of himself, ‘Dan’, puts together the pieces of the tale.

Along the way, Kitson offers insight into the structure of stories, both fictional and real-life as well as boasting about his own abilities  –  hilarious for its arrogance – while simultaneously critiquing his own writing style, especially his tautology, or habit of using too many words.

It’s all very clever, meta-writing, which he revels in. At one point we  find the Kitson before us reading a scene which describes how he would read out a scene in which the fictional him reads out a scene in which his character tries to piece together his own  story.

What’s that popping sound? It’s minds being blown…

For all his protestations that he wants to break the mould and do something with ‘zero emotional or intellectual cachet’, he clearly delights in building up all these layers of storytelling, then dismantling them. And though at the base of this teetering tower of abstractions is a whimsical tale true to typecast, he has clearly succeeded in his stated aim of moving away from that, producing a thoughtful, smart and frequently funny piece about his work and not just his heart.

It comes at the cost of some emotional tug, compared to previous stories, but instead stimulates the brain with the questions it asks and the impressive construction of the writing. Certainly, it shows Kitson isn’t out of ideas yet…

Review date: 10 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Traverse Theatre

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