Daniel Kitson: Keep

Everyman Theatre 18/10/19

The uninitiated quickly get initiated during a DANIEL KITSON show. This is perhaps necessary as the comedian/storyteller has spurned any promotion for the best part of 20 years, save for his own irregular e-newsletter. However, it seems 99 per cent of the audience here at the Everyman are dyed-in-the-wool Kitsonians.

For those experiencing the man’s work for the first time he charmingly assures them of his prowess both explicitly and implicitly. And for the newbies Keep is a wonderful introduction to ‘the best comedian of his generation’. A public falling out with Peter Kay following his appearance in the sitcom Phoenix Nights preceded Kitson almost handpicking his audience. Shedding the lager-swilling, catchphrase-loving punters with insufficient bladder capacity and attention spans and replacing them with tonight’s audience: a full theatre of people hanging on the story-weaver’s every word, not put off by the consistent warnings that this would be a two-hour plus show and there would be no admittance to late-comers or those answering nature’s call.

Even when Kitson briefs the audience on the idiosyncratic format for tonight the theatre remains largely full. This would be another example of the comedian playing with the conventions of storytelling. Tonight he would be reading a ready-made list from individual cards of every item his home has accumulated. Non-stop. For over 120 minutes. Not for the faint of heart.

"Keep is about what defines us. Whether that’s the things we have collected or the experiences we have amassed"

We strap ourselves in. A solitary man joins a sparse set of a cabinet of drawers housing the itemised cards, a desk, and a chair from a silent stage-right. He opens his flask, pours himself a drink, places the first drawer on the desk and begins to read.

What follows is masterful, gripping, hilarious and poignant. All hallmarks of Kitson. Entering into the spirit, I will not give anything away, but this is a show that does much more than the promised concept (many of us convinced this would still yield results) could deliver.

Over the allotted amount of time – regular checks are made with a trusty front row audience member – Kitson mixes autobiography with universal truths. He paints evocative pictures of a man who thrives in solitude and has purposefully followed his own path. While all may not be as it seems, this is still very authentic theatre. Throughout, the audience is made to guess and read between the lines. Peaking into the cracks between the fantabulous turns of phrase and astute observations, we are invited to make sense of what is unfolding. Some of us are still doing so days later.

Keep is about what defines us. Whether that’s the things we have collected or the experiences we have amassed. How each has informed our worldview and whether that worldview is a false projection and if so what really does reveal our essence. Daniel Kitson maybe purposefully enigmatic off stage, but he says so much on stage that he cannot be called an enigma. It all maybe a challenge to unpick but what an enjoyable experience that challenge is.

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