On Sunday morning, after trying frantically for two days to get in touch with my friend at Magdalen College, he finally got in touch.
“So when do you want to meet up?”
“Well, I’m free til about 5.30,” I replied.
“Okay, how about now?”
So down I went to meet him. Awww, it’s so nice to see people you haven’t had a proper chat with in ages! I’ve missed Pete so much since I left college. Admittedly, I’ve missed all my friends from college: I met some seriously nice people there that I hardly ever see now and it makes me sad on quite a regular basis. But that makes it all the nicer when you do see people and this was certainly no exception, especially when he was just as excited as I was and incredibly eager to show me round. So he took me for a look around his college, almost every part of which was spectacular. My particular favourite bit was when we stopped at this tiny door that I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and Pete opened it and led me up this little spiral staircase which just went on and on. I was certain we were going to end up on battlements or in a bellfry or something, but when we got to the top and Pete opened another tiny door it turned out we were just going to the computer room.
So began our day of running around Oxford like mad things, having fun. My only reservation about the whole thing really was that I felt really overdressed. I had decided to make a tiny bit of an effort and dress nicely for the day, going for a denim dress with a belt, my bright purple tights, and some conversers. Now, in Falmouth, this would be considered seriously dressing down (and anyone who has been in Flamouth during term time will agree with me on that). However, what I hadn’t realised is that people in central Oxford, and people at Oxford University especially, comply to a simple uniform: dark jeans/trousers, a shirt, a coat (generally black) and a scarf of some description (usually of some understated colour). Owen had not informed me that such a uniform existed and as a result I stuck out like a sore thumb, and even had one extremely posh-sounding girl come up to me on Magdalen Bridge to tell me that she liked my tights and applauded my bravery for wearing them because “I’d never have the courage to go out in something like that!” This was indeed not the only faux pas of the day: I also got a dirty look off the woman in a cafe for saying the word “fuck”. Apparently I’m a rebel now – hurrah! I even helped out in Pete’s English for Foreign Workers’ Class. It was really fun, actually, though there was a lot of mime involved.
And then, back to Owen’s parents’ for dinner and then to the Oxford Playhouse to see Daniel Kitson! I was buzzing with excitement by that point, like when you put your hand on a computer and you can feel it humming. Owen’s friend Nick came along too, still gloating over winning the go-karting the day before.
Kitson was performing his show ‘The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church’. It’s billed as a story show, and not stand-up – though I think most of the people there were there expecting a stand-up show from the conversations I overheard. Regardless of what people were expecting he was brilliant enough for no one to care whether it met their expectations, as – certainly for us – it was nothing like anything we’d ever really seen before. It was funny, it was smart, it was beautiful; in fact, the one disappointment was that it only lasted an hour and a half – I for one could have heard him go on all night.
I think one of my favourite things was the way he started his story: he said that most of it was made up, “but this bit is true,” he added. And then he began the story and didn’t stop. This caused a delightful blur between truth and fiction that no one really noticed until the end at which point there was a collective “hold on…” moment. The other thing I loved about it was how he managed to get everyone hanging on his every word so incredibly quickly. I know that may sound mental as that is, after making the audience laugh, a stand-up comedian’s job but the crucial thing with Kitson – and this is a biggie – is that when you’re listening to him you don’t care whether he’s being funny or not. I cannot overstate how rare and important that is. If Frankie Boyle or Michael MacIntyre suddenly stopped being funny you would think it was a lead up to a joke, and once they’d not been funny long enough think they’d broken, much as Eddie Izzard seems to have done in recent years. But with Kitson it’s different: he’s there, he’s talking, it’s not funny, you know it’s not leading up to a joke and you honestly don’t care. It’s incredible and he’s one of the only comedians I know who can do it.
I think there was only one thing I didn’t like about the gig and it had nothing to do with Mr Kitson himself. It was that the bloke next to me was laughing at Kitson’s stammer and it made me want to punch him as hard as possible wherever it would hurt most. I assume that he just thought it was part of the act because once Kitson had explained (“I do have a stutter by the way, you’re not just watching a machine breaking down or something…”) he looked a bit awkward and the laughter was restricted to the appropriate places alone.
I left the gig with the hugest smile on my face. Owen maintains that Stewart Lee was better but I disagree and say it was the best gig ever ever ever.
Back now and feeling a little anticlimactic…. but still a bit fuzzy and happy. 🙂
Haappiness and Light,