The very finest of the Fringe

Daniel Kitson reminds Steve Dinneen why he is still the comedian’s comedian

COMEDY
DANIEL KITSON

Battersea Arts Centre
****

The last time I saw Daniel Kitson was 12 years ago, at Glasgow’s The Stand comedy club, at which point he was an up-and-coming young comedian. With milk bottle bottom glasses, lank, greasy hair and a fusty-looking army jacket, his opening line was: “I know what it looks like, but I’m actually not a paedophile”. Instead of descending into a Jimmy Carr-esque parade of insults, though, the show turned out to be a self-deprecating, surprisingly sentimental story about a lonely, misunderstood bloke.

Since then, he’s become the comedian’s comedian, a master of his trade who has never quite strayed into “household name” territory, largely down to his dislike of television work (he fell out with Peter Kay after playing minor role in his sit-com Phoenix Nights).

Now, a shorter haired, thicker-set Kitson is preparing for a new show at the Edinburgh Fringe. His goal: “to stop writing tender-hearted stories about lonely guys”.

The show, Where Once Was Wonder, is a stage-play about a fictional Daniel Kitson writing a play about an old man who discards everything he picks up after 24 hours. It doesn’t lack ambition, with complex ideas involving projectors, indoor rain and extravagant props. Unfortunately, he says, he didn’t have time to actually build any of that. Neither did he get around to auditioning any actors. What we’re left with is Daniel Kitson sitting at a desk, reading the entire play aloud, stage directions and all.

It starts promisingly, with his deftly delivered asides adding enough colour to the prose to get you by. All the while, you’re wondering when he’s going to blink and stop reading the script. After the half hour mark, it starts to sink in that he’s probably not going to blink.

This is where the going starts to get a bit tough. People left. Then more people left. “You’ve done well to get this far,” he conceded.

As he perseveres, though, the very fact he’s still going starts to make you laugh. Like Stewart Lee (a big fan of Kitson’s), he is a man who appreciates the comedy potential of stretching a routine to breaking point; alienating his audience, only to reel then back in.

It’s all very clever – the play within a play within a stand-up routine providing a commentary on comedy itself. You also find yourself drawn into the story, which, despite his best efforts is a tender-hearted tale about a lonely bloke.

You have to work for your supper, but stick with Kitson and you’ll be rewarded with a brilliant comedian pushing the boundaries of his craft.

Where Once Was Wonder runs from 5-26 August at the Stand 1 venue at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

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April 22, 2014, 2:25pm