Edinburgh Fringe 2009
The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Chuch is shown over 80 minutes, 30,000 plus letters, and Daniel Kitson’s brilliant storytelling best not to have been a suicide at all. Rather, a more normal " in the sleep" death.
But then it is Daniel Kitson and another made-up story, so who can really know?
The show is long sold out, though there were six empty seats on both occasions I was there. So try to persuade the Traverse box-office to let you go "stand-by" and see if you can get in, when the doors are about to shut, and it is clear there are empty seats.
It will be worth all the effort. This is brilliant. This is among the best the Fringe can ever offer. And Daniel Kitson is developing into a new alternative national treasure.
And that is when it all started to go horribly wrong. 56 letters takes a lot longer than a single day to write. Indeed, Kitson shows how not only did it eventually take over 20 more years for Gregory Church to put his affairs in order, but in the end, he died of natural causes before he could finally get to kill himself.
Kitson is at his brilliant storytelling best. He starts by announcing that while this is indeed a made-up story, the beginning of it is true. And as Kitson works his magic, it is increasingly unclear where the true ends, and the made-up begins. Kitson tells how he discovered over 30,000 pieces of correspondence in Gregory Church’s loft, and spent the next two years cataloguing and cross-referencing them, and thereby recreating Church’s life.
He got so absorbed in it, he even bought suitcases full of the letters to read during last year’s Fringe. And in telling us this story, Kitson makes frequent use of a notebook in which he has written out various extracts from letters which he reads out to us.
And the amazing extraordinary thing is not only are we the audience in rapt attention throughout, but having been told that this is a made-up story, we each know that it is both possible and even likely that Daniel Kitson would actually have spent 2 years researching 30,000 letters to bring us the true story of the interminable suicide of Gregory Church. In Kitson’s hands, the story comes to life. It lives in the telling, in the warmth and deep humanity Kitson displays, in the wordsmith’s love of the language, in the Mervyn Peake-style imagination he creates.
Not for him the bullying, aggressive shitting on everyone which so many current comedy apprentices pride themselves on. Rather, like Connollly and Izzard, Daniel Kitson is a master of his craft. A genuine alternative national treasure. Go stand-by, and be enchanted.