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Lost City

Daniel Kitson

31 May 11 words: Rose Pearce
A very funny, tragic, completely made up but absolutely plausible tale detailing the last twenty four years of a dead stranger’s life

Daniel Kiston

Daniel Kitson tells us almost immediately after the show begins that the tale we’re about to hear is fiction. It starts with his house hunting in Yorkshire, a mysterious loft that he’s told he can’t go into, and the treasure he finds in the boxes up there. This treasure turns out to be thousands of typewritten letters sent and received by a pompous and lonely man named Gregory Church, a known local suicide. What happens from here is a highly engaging yarn spun by a man who has clearly honed his storytelling skills to such an extent that we are willing to suspend our disbelief and invest emotionally in a story that we know isn’t true.

Kitson is a little-known but well-respected stand-up by trade, and this is immediately apparent by the patter he gives latecomers to his show, telling us that his explicit instructions to front-of-house staff was to let in late audience members only “if they’re nice, not if they’re dicks”. He also uses a number of stand-up tricks in the course of his story, including call-back to jokes used earlier in the performance, deconstruction of why a particular story is funny, and anecdotes of how certain parts of his act go down in other countries. Combined with his brilliant delivery and pacing of the story, the result is an act that feels like a more fulfilling experience than you could reasonably expect if you were attending a stand-up show. However, this is not stand-up and Kitson manages to make storytelling feel like a viable form of evening entertainment once more, clearly knowing his story by heart but delivering it with a real sense of spontaneity.

One of the main ideas with which the audience walks away from the show is the power of language and the way it can bring people together. It is clear that Kitson loves words, and the only anecdote he tells in the show that is not directly related to the main tale is about his Scrabble rivalry with his father. His vocabulary throughout is erudite and varied and ultimately it is this fascination with the written word that drives the story along as his obsession with the letters and interpreting them allows him to gather an intimate sense of a man he never met, and to even solve the mystery of his death: why would a man wait twenty four years after writing his suicide letters to kill himself? 

Daniel Kitson performed at Nottingham Playhouse on Sunday 29th May 2011 as part of the NEAT11 festival.

Our full coverage of the NEAT11 festival can be found here.



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