In Yorkshire comedian-storyteller Daniel Kitson’s New York performance of A Show for Christmas, Kitson begins his story while simultaneously preparing for the show–re-distributing six red-lighted Christmas trees around the set to unveil a desk and changing into his storytelling attire. During the first show in New York, one of the tree branches fell off, which he chucked at an audience member who was on his phone. (This audience member later fell asleep and Kitson told his partner not to wake him.) Kitson is so comfortable on stage, you wouldn’t be surprised if the only reason he changes his pants behind a tree is because of the theater’s no nudity clause. Indeed, the Connelly Theater has multiple clauses for Kitson to comment on. It is owned by a Catholic church, so it has a clause that the performer may not insult the Catholic Church, which was implemented when a group rented out the theater in order to put on a play that did just that. Kitson doesn’t think that sounded like it was a very good play. But he was a little concerned, his story being a secular Christmas story.
Kitson begins his tale with a memorized scene about a girl named Polly trying to rent a car so she can get to her mother’s house for Christmas and winds up renting a mid-sized motorhome. Kitson continues the story, now properly attired, sitting in a desk and reading from an orange journal. We follow Polly across the landscape in her mid-sized motorhome where she runs into a large, old man called Nicholas. Literally, she runs into him with her mid-sized motorhome. It’s no question that the audience immediately connects Nicholas to Saint Nick, as this is a Christmas story, after all. That is not the surprise. The surprise is slowly unveiled over a series of voice messages that Kitson plays between each scene after ringing a hotel desk bell. These voice overs (I was proud of myself for recognizing Isy Suttie’s voice almost immediately) become increasingly more poignant and sad to the point where, as much as you’re laughing along the way, your “tum tum,” as Kitson would say, feels the sadness stop you dead every time he rings that bell.
A Show for Christmas is a beautiful tale, not unlike something you’d find in Skellig, but with more swearing. Kitson is a master of diction and knows which quirky phrases (like mid-sized motorhome) to repeat for comedic effect. The real take home, though, is when Nicholas remembers he has some cocoa in his bag and declares, “It’s hot chocolate o’clockolate!” Kitson, aside, says that’s his gift to our families and generations to come.
Doing the show in America, Kitson insists that he will not change any of the references “but I’m happy to walk you through them.” He also feels that the bit of the story where Polly and Nicholas start talking about New York suddenly feels a bit needy. Additionally, he blames America for the fact that his mic clip is already broken even though they just bought it today.
Kitson’s Christmas story is truly spectacular and made all the better by being read out by an excellent storyteller. Kitson is performing this show in New York at Connelly Theater through December 18, 2015. They are sold out, but show up early and get put on the waiting list.