66a Church Road is not stand-up. Not in a conventional, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow sense anyway. It’s a monologue. A monologue for an old flat. It’s not laugh-a-minute. It’s not side-splittingly funny. Is it any worse for it? No. Suffice to say there are few comics who would try anything quite so honest and ‘unusual’ but then few comics are like Daniel Kitson and in his hands it’s something quite special.
One of the stand out elements of the performance is his impeccable attention to detail. The stage is covered with suitcases, many of which he opens up to reveal tiny, intricate models of the inside of 66a. But it’s also the intricacies of conversations – the minutiae of moving in, moving out, the arguments with the landlord, the times away, the things he planned for it – it all brings the audience so much closer to him, to the flat and to his experiences. The life of his flat is recounted like the eulogy of loved one and as a result there are moments that pack a real emotional punch.
The show is interspersed with brief interludes when the stage is plunged into darkness and a Kitson voiceover recounts various fragmented memories from his time there. These provide some of the biggest laughs, though one or two of these interludes occasionally edge away from nakedly truthful and tiptoe towards teary teenage diary territory.
More than anything 66a highlights Kitson’s skills as an engaging storyteller. His verbal dexterity and way with words is completely unique and in terms of craft and structure it could serve as a training manual to so many comics – though you can already see his influence on the likes of Stefan Golaszewski and Terry Saunders among others.
Interestingly it’s only at the end of the performance, when he thanks the audience, inviting them to take photos of the models, that we really see Kitson at-ease and just how naturally funny he is. Maybe that’s why he’s held, and will continue to be held, in such high-regard. He is in a position where he can do whatever he wants. If he ever had the desire he could be a ‘traditional comic’ and excel at it, but with shows like 66a he’s clearly keen to highlight there can be so much more to comedy. Long may he continue.
Details of Kitson’s upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show can be found here: http://www.traverse.co.uk/shows_itsalways.htm