Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh
August, 2006
**** / ****

Over the last few years, Perrier Award-winning comedian Daniel Kitson has also developed a storytelling strand to his work. I was in the minority in not being utterly charmed by last year's Stories For The Wobbly Hearted, finding something chippy and defiant about their sentimentality. With C-90, Kitson has less to prove, and is growing ever more assured in this side of his work. The single hour-long story tells of Henry, who works in a "facility" cataloguing, but never listening to, unwanted compilation tapes. On his final day at work (as the mix tape becomes obsolete), he receives a tape of his own from an anonymous sender, and sets about trying to identify him or her. As Kitson interweaves Henry's investigation with observations of Millie, the village lollipop lady also on her last day, and various other tape recipients, he makes fine use of the vocal and gestural idiom he has developed for his storytelling as distinct from his stand-up work. Many of the laughs come from phrases which would simply look a bit wry on the page, but when recited in Kitson's matter-of-fact south Yorkshire accent they are revealed as absurdly overblown.

A different kind of first-person story is recounted by the protagonist of Philip Meeks' Twinkle Little Star, an ageing pantomime dame widowed of his gay partner, left destitute and forced out of retirement to play second fiddle to an arrogant reality-TV "star". What begins as queen-bitchery develops into a sadder autobiographical tale with a daft black twist at the end. Meeks' writing can veer close to pastiche-Alan Bennett on occasion, but has a heart that always sees it through. In the Fringe programme, the show is advertised as starring Christopher Biggins, but arrangements have changed in the interim. In fact, actor Tim Healy adds a further dimension by making full use of the contrast between camp orotundity and the earthy Geordie into which he periodically drops. Whenever the Fringe's wackier offerings seem more erratic, this is the kind of unpretentious gem that will never disappoint.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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