After The Beginning, Before The End
Venue: Theatre Tent, Latitude Festival
A storytelling marathon, from the masterful and bashful Daniel Kitson, discussing ideas about memory, loneliness, relationships, attraction, pool tables, evil witches and children. Not to mention the several hundred other things he also talked about which I have since forgotten!
This performance is a hybrid, part theatre show, part standup, part storytelling and part radio broadcast. At times it seems like an exercise in free association through the crevices of Daniel Kitson’s mind. Yet there is a structure of sorts, a linking theme – it’s just at times it feels as though you are trapped in a Ronnie Corbett story, where the point will never come. Despite this possibly sounding like an insult, it really isn’t as this is part of the overwhelming charm of the piece; it feels as though you’re having a one-way conversation with a very complex man, and even though it’s almost two hours of non stop quite speedy talking, I could happily have sat on my uncomfortable plastic chair and listened for longer.
There is no real stagecraft to speak of in this piece. It is just Kitson sitting at a table, speaking into a microphone, playing repetitive, almost mesmeric electronic music which underscores the entire show. It is decidedly unremarkable (especially when compared to intricate and beautifully crafted sets such as he used on 66a Church Road), but as always with Kitson’s work, the show is all about the words; an interesting balance between what feels like a spontaneous, informal chat branching off on numerous tangents, and poetic language delivered almost rhythmically at times.
I have to admit to feeling somewhat self-conscious while writing this review – Kitson is notoriously prickly when it comes to the media, promotion of his work, social media etc. He eschews these now seemingly compulsory methods of selling art, favouring instead a virtually blank website and occasional mail out to a list of loyal fans. It is extraordinary that through only these means (and helped by his commitment to affordable ticket prices) Kitson’s shows sell out in an instant, and even at Latitude, a queue to get into the theatre tent stretched out for what seemed like miles. He spoke a little about this is his show – his dislike of reviews which speak about who he is and what his shows mean, and who almost always get it wrong. Dare I now express an opinion about the deeper layers he was exploring with his text, for fear that coming across my review, this man who I admire and respect should huff and puff and dismiss my ramblings as inane?
And this gives a sense of how Daniel Kitson comes across – he paints a picture of himself as a lonely curmudgeon, living alone with his prized pool table, on which he has devised a complex system of solo-pool, the better to challenge his ability without the need for company. However, he also comes across as incredibly likeable and honest, brutally interrogating the more negative aspects of his character, questioning whether he is a dickhead, deducing that if indeed he was a dickhead he wouldn’t be asking that question, and then taking that thought down further paths so meandering that I can’t remember if he did in fact come to the conclusion he was a dickhead.
After The Beginning, Before The End is incredibly rambling, complex and fascinating. It lacks the beautifully crafted structure that characterises some of Kitson’s other shows, but it also uses the idea of memory and the fallibilty of memory as a unifying theme, which is returned to again and again throughout the show. Kitson is a very witty man, using his gifts as a standup to create this interesting hybrid performance, which made me grab my companion as we cackled with laughter (primarily when he discussed the ‘apparently’ revolting nature of the Mooncup), as well as raising some very thought provoking and interesting points about the nature of recollection and how easily this can become warped over time.
I also tried to go and see a film of Kitson’s other lengthily named show, It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later, but sadly the projector had broken, so it was delayed and I missed it. Luckily Kitson is quite a prolific tourer, so hopefully he will perform it again, but you have to be so on the ball to get tickets to see this enigmatic man, I don’t hold out too much hope!