On Sunday I went to London to see Daniel Kitson do his latest show, Analogue UE, at the National Theatre.
It was a red letter day.
The sun shone gloriously all day, and we were able to eat lunch outside, which is excellent for people watching, especially on a warm Sunday on the South Bank when the world and his wife, and his wife’s dog, all come out to play. There were some sights to see.
Let me say that I am emphatically against brown, knee high boots with vari-coloured tights and small tea dresses. I don’t mind any one of those things, but not in combination.
At least not in the combinations I saw it in on Sunday.
I would also like it to go on record that I am banning wet look pleather leggings when I get to be world dictator. It does not matter how skinny the frame, or how committed the fashionista, I will have pyres of leggings the likes of which have not been seen since the Nazi book burnings.
People who know me and my peculiar wardrobe choices will know that I am not against freedom of expression in sartorial matters. Indeed, I applaud the strange and confident, but there has to be a line somewhere, and wet look pleather leggings are over my line by a country mile.
I drove to London. Yes. Me.
Having conquered the centre of Birmingham in half term I decided to up the ante and tackle Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner and Parliament Square. Oh yes.
I was triumphant. I felt like Caesar coming into Rome, swathed in laurel leaves and doing my victory lap. I was already buzzing with excitement by the time we got to the car park, and that’s not an expression you’ll hear used coupled with the notion of the National car park very often.
I was in London with three of my favourite people. My husband (who hates London, but who loves Daniel Kitson and was willing to man up), my adopted son Lee, and my future wife, Andrea. I could not have chosen three people I’d more like to spend the day with, frankly.
We got there in loads of time, ate Pad Thai, which is always a victory in itself, and drifted around in the sunshine looking for somewhere to have a cup of coffee. Lee showed hitherto unseen levels of fastidiousness by refusing some delicious smelling coffee from a stall at the back of the Royal Symphony Hall because the barista looked like she needed her hair washing. In the end we settled for the espresso bar at the National where everyone passed the hygiene standards adequately.
And nobody attempted to make coffee with their hair.
Then there was the show. Long term readers will know of my passionate commitment to all things Kitson since going to see his show The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church several years ago. Since then Andrea has hunted down tickets to all things with the tenacity of a ticket sniffing blood hound, and we have driven the length and breadth of the country to see him perform – well, to Manchester anyway.
His show; ‘It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later,’ remains the finest thing I have ever seen on stage in my life – and I go to the theatre a lot.
I had heard mixed things about this show, but on balance decided that Kitson at his worst was still going to be a thousand times more interesting than others at their best.
I have to say that I loved it. Unreservedly loved it.
Kitson does two types of shows, stand up, and story telling. This was story telling, but which veered well into performance art/theatrical performance territory. I do not have a problem with this.
The show consisted of Kitson on stage with forty odd pieces of old style, analogue recording equipment, all of which recorded things using tape. He does not say a word during his entire time on stage. Instead, he bumbles about like a slightly tweedy, middle class workman (think Seventies OU lecturer with extension cords and a pen light), plugging in machine, after machine and turning them on in a carefully orchestrated sequence which reveals three stories. The story of a man, the story of a woman, and the story of Kitson and his preparation for the show you are watching.
I won’t tell you any more about the plots of the story, because there are wonders which do not deserve to be spoiled if you can get yourself a ticket to see it.
I will tell you that I laughed, and then I cried – more than once.
I maintain that Kitson is the finest story teller I have ever come across and his skill, and the way that he manages to wring emotions out of me in a theatre auditorium that I would often rather hide away at home, come pretty close to convincing me that the world is still a fairly miraculous place – despite all evidence to the contrary.
Lots of critics have reviewed this show by repeatedly mentioning the debt Kitson owes to Samuel Beckett, particularly with reference to Krapp’s Last Tape. I would agree that they probably have a point, but it is such a minor point, and as far as I can see, mostly put there by critics so they’ve got something to hang an article on: ‘Is Daniel Kitson the next Samuel Beckett?’ etc.
He is not.
He is the first Daniel Kitson.
I think, if I were pushed to draw a parallel with another playwright, that I would plump for someone like Alan Bennett rather than Beckett. Like Bennett, Kitson is a master of the affectionate but masterful use of language, and the insistence on the importance of the minutiae of day to day living. He is the sort of person who would reverence the inclusion of the feelings you get when, as a child, you draw your finger along a row of bricks on a passing wall as you walk to school. That warm, rough, burning sensation that brings with it a hint of dust and sulphur. That kind of thing. He revels in the every day miracle.
Of which I think he is one.