Keep: Daniel Kitson at Battersea Arts Centre review *****

Keep, Daniel Kitson

Battersea Arts Centre, 20th January 2019

Beckett, Pinter, Stoppard, Kitson. I know, I know. He is only a stand-up comedian. So comparing him to these master explorers of the absurdity of the human condition is, to say the least, stretching it a bit. However, as those of us who have become addicted to his “story shows”, (I don’t think DK would like to think he has “fans”), as well as his “stand up”, in recent years. he is a very clever fellow, as are the chaps above, he is very funny and he delivers startling insights. Yes the conceits that underpin the structures of these stories can be as pretentious as they are inventive, and once set-up it is usually pretty easy to see where they will end up, (though the pay-off here is still worth the wait), and yes the man himself, or rather his persona, and his repeated tropes can be annoying, but when he hits it no-one comes close. And that includes many great dramatists who search for tragic-comic perfection.

In Keep he hits it. No question. The preamble, where he gives the audience a chance to excuse itself, as he describes what is coming, the threat, to read out a list of everything he owns, the diversions and repetitions which follow, the self reference, self reverence and self revelation, (now’s who’s being pretentious), the gentle provocations, the playful aphorisms, all are present and correct and all beautifully delivered. Maybe by the end the various layers become a bit too meta, and maybe, as DK himself admits the metaphor of stuff in filing cabinet for mind and self is a bit too creaky, and could be applied by anyone to anyone, but frankly I don’t care as no-one else comes close to being able to create this kind of work.

Don’t worry, there are plenty of laughs. And for those who appear to think it is too long I suggest they need to work on their attention spans. I would have taken another couple of hours no problem. Of course it meanders and digresses, it’s Kitson FFS, but, certainly not in the performances I saw, without considered effect. Love, loneliness, hope, regret, memory, agency, language, he has covered this territory before, but these are the staples of many of the modern dramatic greats including those mentioned above.

And all this for £12. It’s gone now. Don’t miss the next one.

Daniel Kitson at the Roundhouse review ****


Daniel Kitson: Something Other Than Everything

The Roundhouse, 25th July 2017

I really can’t be doing with most stand-up comedy and will rarely pay money to go and see it. Most stand-ups are mildly diverting at best and often begin to grate as they default to cheap laughs from tired observational tropes.

LD and I recently went along to the benefit gig at the Hammersmith Apollo for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Good cause so well worth it, but, with the exception of that Russell Kane and Rob Beckett, in flashes, it served as a reminder of the above rule. Don’t get me wrong, I will laugh and generally have a good time, but this doesn’t normally do much more for me.

There are some exceptions however. En famille we can still get a lot of pleasure out of the quality punnery of Milton Jones and Tim Vine. And Stewart Lee will likely remain mandatory viewing every year until I die. (See here Stewart Lee: Content Provider review *****). As, probably, will Daniel Kitson.

Now I can’t pretend I have pitched up to everything Mr Kitson delivers but I have seen enough routines over the years to know his gifts and I also have a high regard for his more recent theatrical forays, notably Tree at the Old Vic which was a 2015 Top 10 Theatre pick for me, and the more challenging, but still very rewarding, Analog.Ue at the NT in 2014.

So high hopes going in to this. And by and large Mr Kitson delivered. Several strands woven together, enhanced by sound and lighting effects with the usual mastery of comedy technique. When it works it is still very very funny as well as being reflective to an almost exquisitely painful degree. Comedy self-examination requires discipline and by and large Mr Kitson exhibits this. However he sets such a high standard that, just occasionally here, the edifice wobbled. Two hours with this many paths through the material, with diversions, reversions, checks, balances is asking a lot of us mere mortals. How to be a liberal, how to be good, determinism and free-will, empathy, all this and more, presents an awful of possibilities for Mr Kitson to explore and sometimes I frankly wasn’t up to it.

So a qualified recommendation. It’s Daniel Kitson so if you know what to expect you will be rewarded. and it is only £12 thanks to Mr Kitson’s principled generosity. But I still have this nagging feeling that if he could just rein in the brilliance a bit and revert to a more conventional stand-up format it might have been even funnier.

Still mustn’t grumble. Like I said most stand-up comedy is pants.