Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Daniel Kitson, Where Once was Wonder, Melbourne Arts Centre

From the opening seconds of Daniel Kitson’s latest show, Where Once Was Wonder, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that something has changed. Your senses are taking it in, but something just doesn’t seem right. This is a Daniel Kitson show isn’t it? So isn’t that… I mean is that… am I really… could that actually be … is that dance music? Why yes it is. Well, LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge, anyway.

Gone, the gentle indie-tastic Candle Records musical backdrops that welcomed people to Kitson shows of yore, replaced by acerbic beats and James Murphy fretting about being overtaken by ‘better looking people with better ideas and more talent.’ Yet as a precursor of what’s to come it is a stroke of bleeping genius.

What follows is a blistering opening half hour from an unfamiliar looking Kitson – beardless and with his head shaved – which includes pompous attacks on the audience, comedy fans, his own fans and especially his fellow comedians. Swearing is unrestrained and outrageous statements start to stack up, with laughter accompanied by some uncomfortable fidgeting and sharp intakes of breath amongst the packed and noticeably varied crowd.

Given it’s written on the poster I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that the show is built around three unconnected stories, none of which are ever fully finished and one that involves the decapitation of a small pig. However, each deals in their own way with small unexpected twists of destiny that lead to the unlikely becoming not just possible, but utterly inevitable. It will come as no surprise to those who have seen him before that Kitson finds quixotic beauty in these tales, evoking the romance and even turning a self-administered haircut into a noble act.

It would be improper of me to say how this beauty impacts on the closing half hour of a 90 minute set, or how that relates to his vicious opening polemic. Still, it’s fair to say that it was a thrill to hear gentle isolated chuckles slowly snowballing into a roaring Playhouse as pennies dropped about another thrilling act of Kitson chutzpah.

A misguided and factually-lacking review in The Age this weekend suggested that of Where Once Was Wonder represented Kitson returning to the ‘conventional stand up he has spent years retreating from,’ dismissing the evening as ‘a strange combination of dick jokes and intellectual arrogance.’ I’ll admit that I’m a fan of his work*, but I hope nobody bases their decision to go and see this show on those words. There is little that is conventional about Daniel Kitson’s work; stand up or theatrical, which is why he remains the draw card at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival year after year. Losing his edge? Watching Where Once Was Wonder you get the feeling he’s only just started.

Daniel Kitson’s Where Once Was Wonder is on at the Playhouse at Melbourne Arts Centre until 15 April. Tickets $25.

* “then it became a wider thing about people who grip onto other people’s creations like they are their own– James Murphy on LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge.

Sorry about that.

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