I had the entire introduction to this review written out in my head before I stepped foot in Studio Theatre to see the world premiere of Daniel Kitson’s new solo show, A Short Series of Disagreements Presented Here in Chronological Order.
Based on the title alone and the scant description on Studio’s website, my lede was going to be about how in 2017 in America it’s so easy to find yourself in a disagreement of your own, why would you need to pay good money to hear about someone else’s (you’ll have to take my word for it that it was going to be very witty—you would have loved it). But then I took my seat in the Metheny Theatre and within the first few seconds any preconceived notions I had were challenged, and they continued to be in smart and delightful ways for the next 120 minutes.
For those who, like me just a few short hours ago, are unfamiliar with Kitson’s work, allow me to introduce you. Originally from a from a small village in the north of England, Kitson is a writer, performer, and stand-up comedian who now lives in South London. His shows have had great success in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and comedy festivals around the world. A Short Series… marks his first engagement in DC.
And engagement is the perfect word for the experience. Fans of monologists like Mike Daisey and the late Spalding Grey will recognize the format of the piece—Kitson sits alone at a table illuminated by the light from a single bulb with only a laptop, speaker, and projector (complete with actual, physical slides!) and screen to help him cast his spell.
A Short Series of Disagreements Presented Here in Chronological Order
closes November 25, 2017
Details and tickets
A Short Series… is, in reality, not particularly short, but it’s a testament to Kitson’s skills as a storyteller that two hours of rapt spectating feels significantly shorter than that.
Studio’s website describes the piece as “a brand-new story told entirely through the peripheries and pivot points of an as-yet undetermined number of debates, wrangles, quarrels, arguments, discussions, tiffs, altercations, contretemps, and squabbles.” And, if Kitson is to be believed, he actually threw some ideas to this effect onto Post-It notes—disagreements that ranged from whether to add milk to coffee or not right up to gun control. But then, as often happens with a writer on a deadline, life inserted itself and a new subject demanded to be examined, which turned out to be a minor mystery. I won’t give too much away, but cyclists will particularly appreciate the detour in subject matter.
Kitson makes it very clear at the beginning of his story that everything that follows is purely fictional… or is it? Our narrator slyly flips the script over and over again, keeping the audience on its toes. The skill set he’s cultivated as a stand-up comedian is cleverly employed as he banters in real time in response to his audience’s reactions and his own performance. (Kitson has a stutter, and he entreated the reviewers in the room—who, in the beginning, he asked to put down their pads and pen and really listen to the story—to focus not on the quality of his delivery but on his exemplary bravery and courage). This leads me to believe that each performance will be totally unique, which makes A Short Series… the rare production that I’d happily see more than once.
Studio’s original marketing blurb for the monologue includes some “now more than ever” or “why now” language, but Kitson doesn’t hit you over the head with politics or dogma as one might fear. There’s absolutely plenty of fodder for pondering and post-show discussion—there’s a jumbled metaphor about a cake that may be about white privilege?—but it’s for you to tease out yourself. The most striking impression you’ll take away from A Short Series of Disagreements Presented Here in Chronological Order is likely a newfound appreciation for immersive storytelling and hopefully a desire to further examine the kind of assumptions you make about the world and people around you hundreds of times during the course of a day.
Daniel Kitson created Short Series specifically for Washington audiences. While there are no photos or video to date, here’s a few minutes of Stories for the Wobbly Hearted, recorded in 2007, to give you an idea of his performance style.
A Short Series of Disagreements Presented Here in Chronological Order. Written and performed by Daniel Kitson. Produced by Studio Theatre. Reviewed by John Bavoso.