Daniel Kitson - The persistence of an unlikely hero
The word genius is over-used in the current cultural arena. Anyone from a second rate premier league winger to a Fisherprice Banksy gets the label from the burgeoning population of online critics. For that reason, I am not going to bestow the label on Daniel Kitson. Rather, I would implore you to go and see his one man show Mouse: The Persistence Of An Unlikely Thought.
I am new to the cult of Kitson, and, this time, ‘cult’ is certainly the correct nomenclature. You won’t find Kitson on Mock The Week, Live At The Apollo or Saturday Morning Kitchen, you will even struggle to find his live storytelling shows on YouTube.
The comedian has spent the latter part of his career honing his audience as well as his act. He has turned refining his fanbase into an artform in itself.
Despite rarely doing interviews, advertising his shows or releasing DVDs, his gigs almost always sell out. You can basically split people into three groups: those who have never heard of Kitson, but think he used play up front for Reading and may be the Guardian’s Secret Footballer, people who are aware of who he is but are unfamiliar with any of his work after his appearances on Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, and those who have seen his superlative one-man shows, which are moving, innovative, poignant and hilarious in equal measure, and fucking love him. Again, I won’t declare myself as belonging to any particular camp. But I have it on good faith that the Secret Footballer is Danny Murphy.
Mouse is only my second Kitson experience. The first was a film of his show It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later which he presented at FACT earlier in the year. I was bowled over. Admiring his superhuman talent for recounting a two-hour multi-faceted story alone, without cues or breaks is doing him a huge dis-service. Both IARNUIL and Mouse are fascinating explorations into everyday lives. Nothing really happens but there are hundreds of elements which will hit home. The life stories of the central characters in IARNUIL are regular in the extreme, there isn’t anything extraordinary about those in Mouse either, but it is Kitson’s gift of elevating the everyday and romanticising the mundane which give him his power as a performer. His art is in illuminating the extraordinary in the everyday, every life is special and full of incredible events jammed packed with meaning.
This goes some way to explaining his status as cult hero.
On paper, an ordinary man telling a story about ordinary people with fantastically ordinary lives is not going to capture the attention of the passive punter. Kitson’s unwillingness to play the game is not going to convince the majority of taste-makers to put the effort into promoting him. However, the ordinary people who have seen his show and have experienced their own life experience elevated to the poetic will have been enchanted. These are the people who are moved to sign up to the mailing list, drag their friends along to the gigs and write embarrassingly impassioned posts for local arts blogs.
Mouse: The Persistence Of An Unlikely Thought premieres at the Everyman Theatre until Saturday 28 May.
Photo: Tony Briggs.