“ On stage at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh. „
Daniel Kitson is one of the most respected and beloved names on the stand up circuit, despite being entirely unknown in the mainstream sphere dominated by a tedious elite of TV funnymen interrupting women on Mock the Week. Winning the coveted Perrier award in 2002, Kitson could have been up there, and for a very brief time was, until his conscience and self-confessed pretentious morality triumphed over the need for mainstream success, and he opted to play low-profile comedy clubs on Sunday to Thursday nights exclusively, distrusting a weekend audience that might not 'get' his inimitable style of condescending arrogance and inspirational melancholy.
Still in his early thirties, Kitson has the aura of a sage far beyond his years, and it's not just because of that unruly beard. While he denies himself mainstream opulence, Kitson need not worry about breaking even: his name carries enough weight to sell out the Stand Comedy Club for twenty nights far in advance of the Edinburgh Fringe even beginning... which is sort of the problem.
I'd seen Daniel Kitson twice before, in a ramshackle 2004 show that disappointed me after all the hype, and in 2007 in one of the most awe-inspiring performances I'd ever witnessed, destroying any arguments against the validity of stand-up as an art form. I'd put down my initial disappointment to a lack of life experience, visiting the Fringe as a naive, pre-University eighteen-year-old, but this most recent outing cleared up the confusion: Kitson can write an incredibly tight and inspirational show, but is quite frequently underprepared and - to almost certainly be entirely unfair to the hard-working performer (who is also staging a theatrical show elsewhere) - even a little lazy.
The theme of this year's show is death, both our attitudes towards it and our experiences of it, but in these early performances a larger theme is the incomplete shoddiness of the show itself. Kitson is apologetic and admittedly very, very funny about the ramshackle state of his script, fully on display on a nearby stool, but as the night drags on past the promised 90 minutes, even the most sincere and apologetic self-deprecating remark audibly loses some of the support from a loving audience whose patience is formidable, but not infinite. It's a real shame that it affects the overall experience so much, as a really tight performance of this well thought-out, borderline profound show could rival his 2007 masterpiece, It's the Fireworks Talking. But it's some way off yet.
The bits of actual 'show' between the significant pauses are really pretty excellent though, and still unlike anything else you'll see at the Fringe, however much the younger breed of 'gentle' comedians try to measure up to their hero. From revealing insights into gluttony and living alone to inadvisable late-night flirty texts and self-important yet ineffectual stands against the pollution of pop culture, it's a story that most members of the audience will find themselves relating to in varying degrees, dipping in and out at select moments. While the overall focus on a poignant, sombre theme means this show lacks some of the beautiful tranquillity of Kitson's last Fringe outing two years ago, it's still a show that will stay with the audience for some considerable time, and will eventually win out over any mild irritation caused by its excessive, meandering length.
This'll be great when it's finished.