Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Kitson’

Mini-review – Tree – Daniel Kitson at the Old Vic

January 23, 2015

After three weeks without theater and a week with a truly dispiriting run of shows, I felt actively nervous heading into Tree at the Old Vic. A month ago it had sounded perfect, a ninety minute, comic two hander: but I’d lost my sense of purpose. Yeah, Stewart Pringle said the star was a very funny guy, but I didn’t know him from Adam. And then there’s that whole problem I have with British comedy. Half of the time, I just don’t get it, and most of the rest of the time I don’t understand why people are laughing at something that may be odd but certainly isn’t funny. But still, ninety minutes and nineteen pounds, and a Waterloo location to ensure I got home before eleven: I’d just have to push through.

Walking into the theater, I was faced with (spoiler alert!) a three story tree in the middle of the auditorium. Okay, well, it did SAY it was called Tree, I just wasn’t expecting a tree to figure so grandly in things. The auditorium was configured in a much more up-sweeping fashion than usual, with people sat 360 degrees around the small area of the set, even in the boxes. And then a bearded man scaled the tree.

And then, within a few minutes of the start of the play, we were told that he had been up this tree for eight years. OH NOES. I figure there was now two ways for things to go: either some horrible, cloying, environmentalist fable, or a completely nauseating, modern-day existentialist pile of crap. The man up the tree and the man at the base of the tree – a middle-aged suit in a suit killing time before a picnic – strung out the inevitable revelation of “the point of it all” by getting on with some getting to know each other conversation (in which tree man delicately avoids saying just why he’s up the tree), delaying my inevitable disappointment at the heavy handedness of it all by telling little stories about their lives: Suit used to try to save the world from dog poop; Tree has food delivered once a week; Suit’s in love with a woman who makes funny faces when she smiles; Tree watches movies with a widow via binoculars; Suit once spilled a huge bottle of American cream soda over himself; Tree has come up with a unique solution to the toilet question. In some ways, like Waiting for Godot, this story telling is really what the play is about, and with two such personable protagonists, it’s actually really fun to listen to them tell each other stories, occasionally offend each other, and generally act like English blokes.

And then, at last, the moment came, when the horrible revelation happened that clarified for once and for all if this was an environmental fable or some aggravating absurdist/existentialist piece of tripe. But lo! Kitson and Key swung off in another direction just when the whole thing seemed hopeless. And, in just a few more minutes, it was all over, and I realized I’d just had a really good evening. A few days later I found out the play had been extended, and to that I say good: you could hardly ask for a more perfect comic gem of a show than this one.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, January 19th, 2015. It continues until February 22nd.)

Mini-reviews – Analog.Ue and Riverrun – single handers at the National Theatre

March 21, 2014

A play performed by a person setting out reel to reel players that recite bits of a story a few minutes at a time: sounds great, right? I’d seen Analog.Ue described somewhere as a sound experiment, and at £12 I was very willing to let the National take me for a journey.

Unfortunately, despite Daniel Kitson saying he wanted this to not be a show about him, well, it was, and it was self-indulgent and boring, little more than a parlor trick. Yes, he got something like 50 machines to actually do the trick of playing a story (a few interlayered ones) in sequence. No, what they had to say was not interesting. It was like reading a book, only if it had been I’d have been able to close it and not have to walk over 20 people to get out of the theater and away from the boredom.

To make it all the more frustrating, I’d just read a really great review in the Metro for Olwen Fouéré’s Riverrun, and I felt burned as hell that I’d just wasted two hours on a pile of self-indulgent crap when I could have seen something really awesome and there was no way in hell I could see the other show. For once it wasn’t because it was sold out: it was because it was a short run, and me, I had a show Tuesday, surgery scheduled for the next day, and then was going to be laid up for at least a week. Riverrun closed on Saturday. The gods spat on me.

Then I caught a lucky break: the doc decided, while I was on the table, that I didn’t need the surgery. What was my thought (about two hours later)? RIVERRUN!!! About 8 tickets were available for Thursday night and I was in.

I’m not going to give a big review of the show – it was, in a way, a staged reading (of Finnegan’s Wake, in fact this bit here), so what’s there to say about one woman reading a memorized section of a book – except, not just separately but contrasted with the show I’d seen before, it was a brilliant, powerful hour in the hands of a master – not just Joyce but Fouere. I wanted to go to experience the words of a great who had flummoxed me as a reader spoken aloud, to see if meaning and context could be provided by hearing where the eye-brain connection had failed me: and what I got was an evening where I was fully challenged, knowing full well that meaning and context was absolutely there, but sometimes it was eluding my grasp.

The words, spoken, were like Lewis Carroll spinning out Proust, with all of the ridiculous catchphrases that Proust cut out forced back in but turned inside-out. I would not make it make linear sense, so I just surrendered and let the patterns that would form do so: sometimes getting bits of this and that, sometimes going into a bit of a free-association zone that had me thinking, “Life is long and we have many chances to love. I’m going to get me a dog again, a puppy, that I will love and eventually watch grow old and die. But I will enjoy that joyous time while I have it. I have time: I can make it happen again” all in a flash while Anna Livia Plurabelle talked about leaves and her father and places I had never visited in beautiful, lush language that I glimpsed like a gold nugget rolling along a silty creek bed, just there, glowing, then covered with mud again.

Never once did I have a doubt about Olwen knowing what she was saying; she spoke and it was up to me to be able to make it cohere. She treated me as someone with the power to rise up, not as a person who needed to be spoken down to. And, as I hoped, I left the theater with the strong desire to read Joyce, and an unshakeable feeling that I had just seen something really, really good: a powerful hour performed masterfully. This was what I went to theater for; not to be pandered to but to have that brass ring of amazingness held out for me to reach for. Thank you, Ms Fouéré, for having faith in us.

(Analog.ue was seen on March 17th and has closed. Riverrun, no relationship to the novel of S.P. Somtow, was seen on March 20th and runs through March 22nd.