Comedy review: Daniel Kitson: After The Beginning, Before The End Theatre Royal Brighton Festival

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Daniel Kitson’s new show is a reflection on reality, memory and our sense of self. Hardly wall-to-wall giggles, you might think, but this publicity-shy, TV-shunning, Perrier Award-winning comic’s talent lies in burrowing into the human psyche and dispensing profound nuggets through tales in which, more often than not, he is the hapless protagonist. After The Beginning, Before The End is like a TED talk with added LOLs.

It’s all triggered by a single memory. This memory is in fact someone else’s but Kitson – these days shaven-headed and with the voluminous beard neatly trimmed - has a starring role and he’s unsettled since it doesn’t exactly cast him in a good light. So, sitting centre-stage in front of a miniature mixing desk through which he adjusts discreet but ever-present background music, he breaks down the concept of memory as if he is merely thinking out loud. Though, of course, this relaxed spontaneity is rigorously planned.

Right from the start Kitson is the centre of the narrative. At 35 and single, worries that his absence of daily routine and compulsive Googling of himself (hi Daniel!) is “indicative of a failing life.... Where my neighbours have children, I have a pool table. The difference is you can’t get off with someone up against a child.”

While he stops short of asking for our pity, he sees his dysfunction as comparable to “early-season Chandler.” It’s with a seemingly genuine sense of bewilderment that he talks of an ongoing battle between his conscious and sub-conscious minds, and frets incessantly about subtext that, he says darkly, is “like a Kinder Surprise but there’s no chocolate and the only toy is truth.”

And yet, despite the flashes of self-loathing, Kitson is a supremely charismatic host, an astute social commentator and a master craftsman of elaborate sentences that unfold neatly like origami. Rewind some of his proclamations and they veer close to the poetic (“hope is a life kept full of gaps, just in case”), while others paint unexpected pictures, such as his description of his romantic self as “a wrecking ball with a semi-erect penis."

But it’s the pathos and the humanity at the heart of his musings that stay with you. Kitson, the modern-day philosopher, will tell you there’s no such thing as truth, just one person’s version of it. His version will do just fine.

To 26th June; danielkitson.com

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