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Theater review: In Mouse, Monologist Daniel Kitson scurries around St. Ann's Warehouse

Written by
Helen Shaw

Daniel Kitson's new storytelling work Mouse is aptly titled—it moves up close on silent feet, startles you and then whisks itself into a cranny in your consciousness. It's a solo show, of course, as are all Kitson's pieces, a densely woven tale about a small life thick with loneliness. Perhaps you saw It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later, also at St. Ann's Warehouse? Or Analog.Ue or The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church? If so, you'll sink gratefully back into Kitson's gentle presence, his storm of talk and self-delighted little giggles. If this is your first Kitson, then that dawning surprise is still ahead of you: the realization that the sweet, nattering man with the pillowy beard is unspooling a story of literary heft and design.

The piece starts with a stark Beckettian image: Kitson, far back in the black cavern of St. Ann's, peering forward as a corrugated-tin wall slams shut between us. With the wall in place, the set (a warehouse with desk, assorted cacti and a window very high up) actually seems quite warm and realistic. Kitson comes bustling through the door, at sixes and sevens because the phone on the desk is ringing. At this point the mood becomes something brisk and funny and lovably fussy. Still, we don't forget the man in the dark.

At first, the action consists of a chap named William answering a wrong number and being drawn into conversation. (The Yorkshire-accented voice coming through on speakerphone sounds like Kitson, too.) Subtitled The Persistence of an Unlikely Thought, the show braids two quite unlikely tales. One is William's actual novel: at the urging of the voice, he summarizes a story he's been writing about a woman who meets a communicative mouse. Other times, lights shift from incandescent yellow to fluorescent white and Kitson (as himself) narrates events from William's past. Twelve years ago, William had a tendency to aloofness. Five years ago, he worried that too many friends were moving away. One year ago, he was confirmed in his bachelor solitude. The second deliberately far-fetched element materializes over the course of the evening as a series of coincidences between William and his new friend on the phone.

In Mouse, as in Kitson's other works, the most endearing sections are when he speaks directly to us—ribbing someone for yawning (“Need more oxygen, mate?”) and pointing out his best new bits (“I don't know about you, but I am delighted with that piece of business”). At times, and in comparison to these outrageously charming moments, the scripted sections can feel slightly too artificial, and we do see narrative developments coming a mile away. But that's all part of the aesthetic. Kitson likes a certain sense of the inevitable. Timelines converge or realities tie together in a bow—in the quest of his theme (“only connect”) he's willing to be repetitive. Once you grasp a Kitson conceit, you should just sit back and watch it unwind like a reel-to-reel tape. You may be able to tell exactly when the tape will run out, but you're still caught by surprise at how fast those final moments go.

St. Ann's Warehouse (Off Broadway). Written and performed by Daniel Kitson. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission. Through Nov 27. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

Follow Helen Shaw on Twitter: @Helen_E_Shaw  

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