Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

‘Tree’ by Daniel Kitson

1632404855I always find it very interesting in how artists, be them comedians, playwrights, actors or musicians progress over time. I think about the changes that maturity brings – Ben Folds moved from aggressive geek piano rock to a mature writer of occasionally sentimental ballads, while the Red Hot Chili Peppers went from cock rock funk motherfuckers to, well, a bit shit.

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Kitson for a long time – the most gifted comedian and storyteller by a long way – with his beautiful stories of love and loss, examining the core essence of humanity and life. However his shows have always been one-man affairs so I was massively intrigued to see if this show, a two-hander, performed with the brilliant Tim Key,  would reduce his usual high standards.

I’m pleased to say that it’s a brilliant show, witty, clever, well-acted, poignant and at points incredibly moving. While I’m not going to be a dick and tell you what happens, I can tell you that Kitson has the potential to be the UK’s next leading playwright. The play reminded me of some of the best work by Alan Ayckbourn and Tim Firth, that exceptional pacing, the classic twist at the end but with an underlying message that is universal to everyone in the audience. But above those writer’s work, Kitson adds a relentless hit rate of comedy throughout the show, the number of great lines getting big laughs is tremendous, perhaps if there is any criticism it’s that, at points, lines and moments that could be afforded greater time to breath get lost and consumed by a) the initial laugh, b) the secondary laugh of people getting it a little slowly and c) the late laugh of someone who’s just had it all explained to them.

Daniel Kitson acting rather than storytelling is a joy, he has an effortless likability (although, it should be said I’d love to see him push further, Kitson and Key in Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter could be a facinating proposition), while Tim Key has an understated brilliance – he plays the desperate romantic beautifully, to a point where when the twist comes it is absolutely crushing (credit to the writing for keeping it subtle too, that growth of realisation rather than it all hitting in an instance makes the moment so much worse).

So go and see this show, it’s brilliant, hopefully they’ll release the script for it and ideally it’ll be the first play in a long line.

(P.S. I am aware that people research themselves on google (or at least I do…). So, on the off chance, Daniel or Tim, if you read this a) well done, loved the show, and b) will the last show at the Royal Exchange that was filmed be released at any point, I saw it and cried and would love to see it again. Best, Sam)



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