Daniel Kitson has a bit of a cult status so I feel a bit behind the times admitting that this was the first time Ive been to see him. But from this show I figure that keeping up with the times is not exactly one of Kitsons own priorities, so Ill not feel too bad.
It also meant I didnt really know what to expect. This wasnt exactly stand-up more of a sweeping, understated monologue that says a great deal about the poetry of creating a home without telling us very much at all about what actually went on within his four walls (besides eating ice cream and playing football console games). As the man said, emotional attachment is what life is all about and in its own quietly forceful way the strength of Kitsons attachment to life comes through poignantly in the midst of recounting his affection for sash windows or personality weaknesses in the face of removal men. The laughs are not thick and fast but they burble up every so often and the rest of the time the audience seems contentedly caught up in Kitsons reverie.
The subject of his musings is the flat on 66a Church Road in Crystal Palace that Kitson used to live in (unless he just made it all up, which would be upsetting). Over the course of 90 minutes he takes us through the getting to know, the falling in love, the trying to acquire permanently, the resistance he encountered, the parting, the brief return and the final acceptance that his dream (of buying this flat) was really over.
The subtle allegory with romantic relationships which I hope you managed to catch there is a framing conceit for this performance. The set is broken up into chapters of a sort, which are interspersed with voice-overs played over a darkened stage, capturing little vignettes of moments spent in the flat. Like making bacon sandwiches and foolishly leaving out the avocado. Or him and his mates arming themselves with kitchen utensils after watching a really scary film. But many of these also refer to a she figure someone who came back into his life, whose presence in the room next door makes his TV installation so much more exciting, who is leaving for the airport and should he call her or shouldnt she? There was a resonant connection between how you build a life which is captured in that intangible thing called home, and the way that ones life itself is built out of love.
Not that this is sentimental stuff its both too heartfelt, and too wry, for that. Theres a cadence to Kitsons performance, and it takes a bit of getting used to, but the crescendos, where his prose pushes its way towards brilliantly alliterative verse, are something rather special. And then suddenly hell be repeating something about massive statues of dinosaurs, or switch into a mockery of his painfully thick-skulled landlord. These sporadic moments of something hilarious, or wonderful, or just so astutely observed that the whole room recognises themselves, keep the attention but you do perhaps have to be prepared to invest a little of yourself to get the most out of it.
I cant go without saying something about the set. If you havent ever seen Kitson, then just imagine a very unassuming and slightly shabby fellow, a little tubby and a little bald, and bearded. The kind of guy who looked very much at home sitting on a chair on an old-fashioned rug surrounded by old-fashioned suitcases. There were times I felt the seated approach wasnt the best for engaging with his audience but again given time that made more sense and gave him the chance to get up and gesticulate in his more animated moments. Or perhaps go to one of his suitcases and turn it round to reveal the models and props built inside. Once the show was over, and having absolutely ripped it out of the folks who went to the bar half-way through, Kitson explained how theyve been using these inbuilt models and at no point on the tour has the audience been able to get a decent view of them. He then invited us all down to the stage to get a proper look before saying goodbye. On closer inspection it turns out the luggage is full of beautiful, dolls-house like models of rooms or whole homes, lit up and incredibly inviting. They encapsulate perfectly Kitsons point about a home being something that you carry around inside you as well as the sense that wed all had a glimpse inside Kitson himself. Im a sucker for anyone who says hes got no time for greed masquerading as duty (or describes discarded chicken wings as a parcel of bad-mannered voodoo) but I have to say it was rather a nice feeling to go home with.