As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title @ Traverse

Review by Ryan Rushton | 15 Aug 2012
  • Kitson

Above all else, Daniel Kitson's new show is about the power of ideas. What the audience will first notice upon taking their seat is that, except for a desk and chair, there is no set to speak of. There will also be no props, no lighting design, no music, no other cast members. For the show's duration all we are to witness is a man, reading from a sheaf of papers and occasionally addressing us directly. It is of course testament to the storytelling power and sheer magnetism of Kitson that after the first few minutes we are captivated.

Entering the auditorium Kitson launches into the story of Maximilian Cathcart; the man who must discard any and all property within twenty-four hours of first possessing it. This is the initial narrative meta-layer he establishes before going on to distance the man reading the words at the table from Max by establishing a further series of tightly wound autobiographical frames.

Distance is perhaps the wrong choice of word however. This implies a cold and strictly functional telling of these stories. In truth Kitson manages to make entire worlds live and breathe by virtue of both his skilled oration (he skips between chronologies, scenes, layers and fictionalised versions of himself within the same few minutes) and the writing, which is so precise in its spiralling complexities it recalls Tristram Shandy or Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller.

Inside each matryoshka doll reside the themes that run through the majority of Kitson's work and which, in the frequent asides on the nature of the show itself, are helpfully flagged. We have the quiet dignity and hidden depths of 'unwitnessed lives' as Kitson puts it. In the next level hierarchically we have the blossoming romance and always waiting heartache of Daniel and Jenny, a person he credits as co-writing the show itself. Creativity, writing, examination of structure are relentlessly probed, mocked and folded into the emotional resonance of the first two layers as the show progresses.

What had the audience leaning forward, mouth somewhat agape by the end though, was the way in which, having established these layers and shown us how tightly compressed they are, Kitson starts to let them unfurl. In a process that can best be described as a succession of rugs being pulled out from under one's feet, the entire show is slowly drawn aside and revealed to be something else entirely. I speak figuratively of course. At the end, as in the beginning, we are simply watching a man, reading from some paper, on a stage. It is mesmeric, moving, and the type of work that you will think about in the days and weeks following its conclusion.


The Traverse, Until 26 Aug, various times.