The awkward monologuist offers up a compelling and, at times, excitingly unpredictable one-man show about a small, furry protagonist
The star of Mouse: The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought at St Anns Warehouse is a small, furry creature the monologuist Daniel Kitson. Awkward of manner and lisping of voice, with thick-lensed glasses and an erratically receding hairline, Kitson is a defiantly compelling performer whose solo shows, which are both intensely theatrical and highly literate, tend to center on the forlorn and neglected.
The lead character of Mouse is no exception. William Booth is a part-time writer and full-time loner, who spends most evenings in the storage space he uses as a writing studio. He is trundling home after an indifferent session when his landline rings. Theres a voice at the other end, a voice that sounds very much like Williams. The call might be a wrong number or it might be something altogether stranger.
William and the speakerphone voice take their time deciding. In the meantime, they enjoy an all-night chat, which Kitson indicates by moving the hands of a clock ever forward. Much of the conversation is spent on Williams outline for a story about a lonely womans encounter with a lonelier mouse. Interspersed with this tale is an account of Williams earlier life, which Kitson delivers in his own voice and with improvisatory moments that the speakerphone setup doesnt allow.
One of the great pleasures of a Kitson show is the contrast between the sweetness at the heart of many of his stories and the rather more acerbic quality of his audience interactions. Kitson has always had a terrific way with crowd work. His attitude toward audiences is wryly disparaging, but rarely unkind. (Unless of course you are a critic.) He always seems a little surprised that such large groups of people would come to see him and mildly appalled at how they react to the show when they laugh, when they dont, how they distract themselves.
At Mouse, he encouraged a couple of spectators to poke a sleeping person, just to make sure the person hadnt died. Kitson handed out a cookie in consolation. And he quizzed another man on whether or not he knew what digestive biscuits were. The man had just ordered a pack. His tone became darker when he spotted a critic. Slight heckling followed, along the lines of: Dont take this personally, but you sicken me. (This is a marked improvement over a previous show, in which he instructed audience members who spotted critics, to assault them, so progress!)
Those who have seen Kitsons work before will find the tone familiar and several of the twists extremely guessable. Still, theres a beautifully shambolic quality to much of the show and the extemporaneous moments make the piece feel excitingly unpredictable. Will Kitson continue the story? Will he pause to complain about the temperature in the space? Will he share those biscuits? And no matter how comic or absurdist his shows become, he has poignant sympathies for all the lonely people. Where do they all belong? Onstage.