Brighton Festival 2011
The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church is a 90-minute rapid fire monologue about…i)Mr Church’s death; ii) Life &/or what makes a life worth living; iii) Mr Kitson’s life; iv)all of the above; v)… or even perhaps none of the above.
The show starts like a casual stand-up routine: Daniel Kitson making an understated entrance on a stage uninviting to closer inspection, unlike his sartorial appearance which invites mild intrigue but betrays no preparation.
Mr Kitson makes a point of telling us that he’s not feeling too well and that he’s jet lagged – warning in advance so we shouldn’t take his fainting as part of the show. The more cynical amongst us might be forgiven for thinking upon this as merely a gimmick to secure a certain level of empathy towards his stage persona? A story unfolds telling us of the boredom of a man in limbo transiting through the social vacuum of his life and languishing in the dynamic-capital with thoughts of moving to Yorkshire. Then starts a hilarious story about a viewing with a typical estate agent ending up in an attic full of old letters, including a suicide note from Mr Gregory Church – the previous owner.
This is when the show becomes something altogether different and rapidly shape-shifts from stand up routine to -“story show” to -detective story to – parable, fused so subtly to render the transition between reality and fiction unremarkable. It’s so tempting to just keep on believing the story!
Intrigued by the suicide note and an irresistible scent of “properly old books”, Daniel Kitson plots to have the letters delivered to his London flat: over 30,000 letters, which will take him the best part of 2 years to sort, read and cross-reference, uniting Mr Church and Mr Kitson through obsessive-compulsion.
Considering the first 56 letters are all suicide letters addressed to various people more or less related to Gregory Church’s suicide, how did life manage to provide a detour lasting for 2 years before he could reach his destination? This is what Daniel Kirston – and his audience – rapidly become obsessed with.
So this is definitely NOT a stand up routine, nor does it feel like drama. It feels like a meticulously written journey into life and death and what makes life worth living. Little did Mr Church anticipate that he sowed seeds in his sometimes naive, sometimes cynical and sometimes pedantic suicide letters, from which precious epistolary friendships would blossom, getting in the way of Mr Church’s suicide (precise from the purchase of all necessary equipment to the cancellation of the morning milk delivery!). Little did we anticipate that such a parable would make us feel so exhilarated and hopeful about life and human beings.
Throughout the show, the lightning-quick delivery kept me bewildered. Is it because he needs this unbridled pace to keep up with his thoughts and emotions? Or is it because he spent too long on the comedy circuit? Had Daniel Kitson have delivered this show at a more conventional pace I’m sure it would have lasted 3 hours! But time was folded as skilfully as origami as I was hypnotised by the richness and intricacy of the writing.
By the time the show ended after the fastest 90 minutes I’ve ever experienced in a theatre, I was conquered by the beauty of a stratified self-involving text that took me on a poignant and exhilarating journey from laughter to curiosity to nothing less than hope in human kind! What Daniel Kitson has achieved with his latest show is not only to provide a (perhaps unwitting) legacy for the late Mr Church but also a championing of faith in the power of friendship, phrasing and togetherness.