It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later
Achingly beautiful stories from a normal bloke
This article is from 2010.
Daniel Kitson is a prodigiously talented comedian and storyteller. He’s also a normal guy. He announces himself normally, strolling onto the stage and thanking his audience for coming to such an early show (10am). He says he’s going to tell two stories that are only partly about love (though no more ‘than the bible is a story about carpentry’). And then he begins to perform, recounting the last moments of 76-year-old William Rivington, followed by the first moments, 76 years earlier, of Caroline Carpenter. William’s storyline moves backwards, gathering momentum as it reverses through regret, obstinacy, all the way to teenage wonder. Each moment that Kitson touches on is represented onstage by a glowing light bulb. And when one of William’s bulbs turns off, one of Caroline’s turns on, cueing Kitson to switch timelines to move her story forward – from a tumble off a bike, through first love, to curmudgeonly old age.
A normal guy, examining two explicitly normal lives. Yet this show is extraordinary. In between the budding romances, crushing disappointments and lazy Sunday afternoons (all vividly realised) there’s space for the audience to build a close-to-complete picture of two separate lifespans. William and Caroline sum up the impossibility of ever fully capturing what you can know about life in a single thought – or as Kitson describes it, ‘desperately trying to imagine what [is] coming and not getting anywhere near close.’
Then, of course, there are the trademark observations: throwaway material as good as any other comedian’s, too easily overlooked because the magic just seems to happen. The audience is in the gaps, not experiencing the moments, but instead straining to see the whole.
And suddenly, it’s over. Kitson leaves the stage, missing off any cathartic climax and puncturing the illusion that this was ever more than just another experience – resonant but unknowable. This may be Kitson’s masterpiece, the peak of his reign as the Fringe’s greatest storyteller, but you’ve got to hope that there’s something even more beautiful to come.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 29 Aug, 10am, £12 (£10).