Sunday, 14 October 2007

c-90 by Daniel Kitson, Oct 14, 2007

 c-90 by Daniel Kitson
Melbourne Festival of Arts
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, Oct 14 to 27, 2007

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 14, 2007

Daniel Kitson is acclaimed as a stand-up comic both her and in the UK but, although in c-90 Kitson stands up while being funny, c-90 is far from stand-up comedy.

It is a poignant storytelling performance delivered at Kitson’s usual frenetic speed but without the scatological language of his comedy gigs. From the moment he enters Kitson transports us to a peculiarly English, woody office inhabited by disenchanted cataloguer, Henry Leonard Bodey.

Although Kitson never becomes the characters he describes in the third person, we see, hear and even smell them as he conjures them and their painfully dull worlds with elaborately constructed language, cunning observations and vivid imagery. With his scruffy beard, thick spectacles and rough suit he looks like one of his characters.

The compulsiveness of Henry is reflected in Kitson’s style of delivery and obsessive attention to detail in his depiction of characters, relationships and locations within the village they all inhabit. He yammers non-stop, indulging in the wordiness of his narrative.

The story takes place on Henry’s retirement day. For decades he received and catalogued 70,000 sad and discarded compilation cassette tapes then filed them, by some unfathomable method, on enormous, wooden library shelves in this forgotten repository. On this, his final day of work Henry, who has not received a new tape for months or years, finds two mysterious, gift-wrapped parcels containing a compilation tape and a cassette player. After years of disappointment, his remaining hours are joyfully spent hunting amongst his tapes for clues to the identity of the unknown benefactor.

We also meet other members of the village. Millicent is also retiring the same day from her career as a lollipop woman. A compulsive-obsessive to rival Henry, Milly insists on knowing everybody’s middle name and using it. She is eccentric and engages in elaborate linguistic play – but only in her mind.

Michael is the only past student who remembers Milly, Thomas is the rude librarian in the Music section of the local library where Milly collects her records, Susan Jane Conway is a teacher on maternity leave and Jessica is the vet who inadvertently injures over animals.

The mad complexity of each character’s inner world is unveiled for us in Kitson’s evocative rivers of narrative. There is an underlying melancholia in the lost dreams, forgotten hopes and missed opportunities of these people and a poignancy in their joy in simple human pleasures.

By Kate Herbert

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