Thoughts On Leaving A Daniel Kitson Show
About a decade ago I went to see the French Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You Black Emperor! in the bowels of Newcastle Students’ Union.
The band, at the time an octet of multi-instrumentalists, were purveyors of long musical collages, often using sounds gathered on the streets of their native Montreal.
They were, and probably still are, the kind of band who would project grainy black and white films over themselves as they played.
Arriving at this concert not long before the start, for a band with such long compositions improbably short set, I was a little discomfited to find the majority of the audience sitting cross-legged on the floor.
Assuming that this situation would rectify itself, and the music fans would assume their proper perpendicular position once the music started, I joined them; after all, hadn’t we stood through the foot-shiftingly long soundscapes of Mogwai the previous month?
But they did not get up. We sat cross-legged through the funky beats of ‘Cancer Towers on Holy Road Hi-Way’, we were open mouthed in reverential, recumbent awe during ‘She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field’.
It was the first time I realized, a realization replicated at many a Belle & Sebastian gig since, that when an audience decides to take an entertainment with undue seriousness, everyone can end up looking a bit dickish.
Daniel Kitson has the critical acclaim and cult following of a Godspeed.
His shows, a hybrid of stand-up and storytelling with the occasional addition of musical interludes, take the form of short stories.
Kitson’s is a world where glimpsed lives are reclaimed through the discovery of archives of letters, collections of old photographs, diaries.
It is a world of loneliness and longing, in which male figures of isolation reach out for human contact through the displaced medium of text; a world of typewriters, schoolboy crushes indefinitely maintained.
His shows are beautifully constructed, well-performed and laced with inventive, unusual and excellent lines.
But as I left the theatre on Friday night I did feel as if I had been asked to take a perfectly pleasant story, with a lovely streak of Dickensian sentiment, a little bit more seriously than was strictly necessary.
And having thought that, I began to wonder if I looked like a little bit of a dick.