thu 27/02/2020

Edinburgh Fringe: Daniel Kitson/ Leisa Rea/ Misconception | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe: Daniel Kitson/ Leisa Rea/ Misconception

Edinburgh Fringe: Daniel Kitson/ Leisa Rea/ Misconception

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Daniel Kitson: the former stand-up comic has turned into an excellent storyteller

Daniel Kitson only occasionally performs at comedy venues at the Fringe these days - perhaps a late-night spot here and there, though not a full set - but it has become almost a tradition that he writes a new piece for the Traverse each year. On the cusp of comedy and theatre is, surely, storytelling and Kitson, winner of the Perrier comedy award 2002, has become a storyteller of excellence.

It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later, Traverse *****

And so it proves again with this enigmatically titled piece about the glory of being alive. He tells the stories of William Rivington and Caroline Carpenter - it’s a sort of romance, “But it’s no more a story about love than the Bible is a story about woodwork.” As he begins, 20-odd lightbulbs are lit on the stage, otherwise bare except for a chair and a stepladder. The bulbs are a clever device to punctuate points in the story, as a different one glows brightly when Kitson describes a moment in time - eight minutes before Caroline was born, or when William held a baby for the first time - before fading as the segment finishes. The timeline goes back and forth, and Kitson jumps between events in William and Caroline’s lives.

There are moments of unutterable beauty as Kitson recounts everyday events of ordinary lives. He describes how Caroline and husband Ben, a couple who have grown old together, go to the same cafe each week and sit at the same table and order the same cooked breakfast. What follows is “a culinary choreography”, as she transfers her tomato to his plate, uses the salt before passing it to her husband, while he butters and slices a piece of toast before passing it to her, and so on. There are cracking lines of comedy, too, as William’s oldest friend Jim, lover of home comforts including television, loo and kettle,, turns down an invitation to walk in the park. “Parks are for children and paedophiles, Will. And you are not a child.”

It’s a mesmerising tale, full of linguistic artistry and moments of touching insights into the human condition. It’s on every day at 10am, but it’s absolutely worth getting up at such an early hour for. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

Leisa Rea, Gilded Balloon ****

Leisa Rea, of Adams and Rea fame, has decided to go solo this year and daringly move into autobiographical material, for Pension Plan is a show ostensibly about mental health. Like many a professional clown, Rea has suffered from mild depression for much of her adult life and she describes how it has affected her career and relationships, but with her warm and wry humour she manages to make her story both funny and uplifting.

Rea has an unerring eye for the absurd; various therapists she has been to are represented as decorated vegetables and she recounts how one told her to overcome her self-esteem issues by wearing tighter clothing. A highlight is a recording of a telephone conversation with a “life coach”, whose incompetence is of Basil Fawlty proportions. Although there are moments of comedy as therapy here, you will come out of this show a little happier than you went in. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

Misconception, Assembly @ George Street ***

Bill Dare is a TV comedy producer who has worked on hits including Spitting Image and Dead Ringers. And he presumably watches a lot of TV, as Misconception is the latest in a long line of post-Cold Feet pieces about middle-class friends grappling with that niggling thing called life.

In this case, the problem is if it is OK to conceive without the father's knowledge. Louise is being deafened by the ticking of her biological clock, but hubby Jimmy would rather play with motorbikes than prams, so she contemplates getting jiggy with a turkey baster. Soon best mate Noel is embroiled in an ethical debate - is truth more important than happiness or vice versa?

After a sluggish start things pick up as the plot unfolds. The problem is that this feels too much like a TV pilot on a shoestring budget – the set is one tatty living room. But the cast do well, injecting life into occasionally dead dialogue. Toby Longworth is suitably scruffy as Jimmy and Sian Reeves (Sally Spode in Emmerdale) is convincingly at the end of her fallopian tether. Stewart Wright as two-dimensional singleton Noel is the weak link, resembling a sketch character played by Alexander Armstrong. Fine for an hour, but I can’t conceive of it changing Dare's career direction. Until 30 August Bruce Dessau

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters