The very finest of the Fringe

Stephen Dinneen
Follow Stephen
el K

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


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.


<h2>Best of the Fest</h2>

Stewart Lee's Carpet Remnant World
The Assembly Rooms, George St, Edinburgh, 2-26 August

The UK’s finest comedian prepares for another self-referential skit about the state of the modern world and the perils of being middle class.

<strong>Jimmy Carr: Gagging Order</strong>
Venue 150, 16-26 August

Fresh from his brush with the tax man, the baby-faced comedian will deliver another set filled with snappy one liners that is sure to fill half the country with a seething rage and have the rest rolling in the aisles.

<strong>Richard Herring: Talking Cock 2</strong>
Underbelly, Bristo Sq, 2-26 August

The other half of Lee and Herring returns to the Fringe in his Silver Jubilee year (he first performed here in 1987), with this reworking of his smash-hit 2002 show, Talking Cock. Expect lots of self deprecating jokes about Herring’s diminishing manhood.

<strong>Humphrey Ker is...Dymock Watson! Nazi Smasher!</strong>
Pleasance Dome, 7-14 August

The winner of last year’s best new-comer returns for another history-oriented show based on the true story of his grandfather’s mission to blow up a refinery in Romania during World War II.

<strong>Roisin Conaty: Lifehunter </strong>
Pleasance Courtyard, 1-26 August

Another former Best Newcomer winner, Roisin Conaty will return with her musings on 21st century life and love. You may recognise her as the sometimes-star of Russell Howard's Good News. Don’t let that put you off, though.