It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
4 stars ****
IN TRAVERSE ONE, AT 10 o’clock each morning, Daniel Kitson stands on a dark stage full of tiny, glowing points of light. They’re a few dozen ordinary light-bulbs, in fact, hanging from wires of different lengths; but with his own unique form of theatrical magic – domestic, unassuming, woven with words – Kitson takes control of the time and space, and makes each one represent a single moment in the lives of two ordinary English people, a man and a woman, who never met, who were born back in the 1930’s, and who both recently died, at the age of 76.
The man, William, has been a crusty old bachelor of a character, a childless man whose one brief marriage didn’t work out, for reasons undisclosed, but easy to guess; one of the funniest riffs in the whole show concerns his abiding interest in people’s last words, and his stubborn determination, having uttered his own, to say nothing more, for the remaining nine days of his life. The woman, Caroline, is what’s known as a wife and mother, more or less happily married for 50 years. But both of them are realised here as the full subjects, the hero and heroine, of their own stories. And once again, Kitson reminds us just how rarely we ever accord that respect to the ordinary people we meet; and maybe, of how rarely we accord it to ourselves, in the magic of each moment of our lives.
There’s a certain sentimentality here; and just a faint wobble in pace and structure, towards the show’s slightly overlong conclusion. Once again, though, Kitson proves himself a magnificent chronicler of the great, vast, unsung English lower middle class, in its eccentricity, its gentleness, its stubborn refusal to be anything other than itself. His use of language, of idiom, and – in this case – of the future tense, is breathtaking; and if the class he describes is now fading into history, then he will prove to have been one of its best and most passionate historians, and its greatest obituary writer.
Until 29 August, p.262.