Up until the current production of Analog.Ue at St. Ann’s Warehouse, I had never heard of Daniel Kitson. He’s known as an English stand-up comedian as well as a playwright and monologist. At the heart, Kitson is a storyteller. After seeing his show, I departed a fan of his stories but not so much of this particular rendition.
Would you like some context? So a light comes up on a table far upstage covered in old-school tape recorders, reel-to-reel players, etc. The particular story being shared with us is entirely pre-recorded, and Kitson slowly but surely brings forward each player, hooks it up to a central circuit board, and plays the next section of the story. He often switches back and forth between a couple players, but primarily he moves on to the next piece of the story with a new piece of equipment.
In these one-to-two-minute increments, we learn about Thomas, an 80-year-old man, who has decided to record his life story at the encouragement of his wife of 40 years. He gets settled in his garage with plenty of snacks and surrounded by dozens of recorders. Meanwhile, this narrative is also spliced with tales of a young woman named Trudy. It’s years later and she happens to own one of Thomas’s tapes and has spent years trying to find the man whose voice she has listened to since childhood. While the story is appealing in itself, it takes a while to get going. The running time is approximately 75 minutes, fluctuating due to the technical problems that may crop up. In fact, it was during the technical difficulties that I was most amused. Kitson’s anecdotes and interjections to fill the pauses were quite amusing and made light of the reality.
It’s a very interesting idea, but the actual execution didn’t hold my interest. Sitting in a dark room with minimal physical activity and lighting makes it difficult to stay present (and awake). With only auditory stimulation, you might be asking yourself: couldn’t this be a podcast? Let’s check in with my theatre companions for that evening. Allison (my bro’s gf) wasn’t too pleased. She has seen Kitson’s work before and was disappointed he didn’t talk to us. His storytelling is his MO, and we didn’t get to see it. Jeff (my bro), on the other hand, kept arguing the point that this is the only way the story can be told! Maybe you should go and decide for yourself. Personally I don’t think it’s enough. While it is an intriguing experiment in technology and audio devices, I found myself counting how many recorders were left on the table.
Written by Daniel Kitson
St. Ann’s Warehouse through December 21st