The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

08/03/2011 - 12/03/2011

Auckland Arts Festival 2011

Production Details

Gregory had fifty seven letters to write. He’d never written that many letters, not in one go. In fact, he’d never written a single letter and it was taking significantly longer than he’d anticipated. He’d started, full of optimism, curiously enough, at 9am and now here he was 8 hours later half way through letter twenty four. He glanced at his watch and then at the noose hanging over his head. 

Gregory sighed.

Had he known how long suicide letters take, he thought, he wouldn’t have cancelled the milk for the morning.

A story about a death postponed by life. 

In a 90-minute monologue, master storyteller Daniel Kitson pieces together the rewound life of Gregory Church, who begins typing suicide letters 24 years before he dies. The multi-award winning comedian and playwright takes his audience on an exhilarating journey based on these letters. As details emerge, stories intertwine and revelations unfold: cherished friendships, unrequited affection, razor-sharp rants against the media, officious complaints and tender confessions. 

“Pretty well all theatre is a form of storytelling, but by no means all storytelling is theatre. But if you want to see a glorious example of the latter, look no further than Daniel Kitson’s one-man show.” – The Guardian (UK)

“Perrier Award winner Daniel Kitson’s new show is eccentric, far-fetched and unbelievably

good.” – The Telegraph (UK) 

Old, forgotten, secret and hidden stuff all push Daniel Kitson’s buttons. It’s one of the reasons why he’s ‘an inveterate emotional hoarder’ and won’t throw away mementoes and decades-old love letters. The comedian and playwright also loves glimpsed lives; fleeting snapshots of someone’s routine, as it allows for projection of whatever heroic, romantic or tragic back-story he wants.

So when Kitson finds an attic full of boxes of letters while househunting, his mind starts racing. This 90-minute monologue pieces together the rewound life of Gregory Church, who began typing suicide letters 24 years before he died. Key Kitson themes recur: cherished friendships, unrequited affection, razor-sharp rants against the media, and these are acted out through ‘the derogatory bombasts’, officious complaints and tender confessions that Church types. 

Just as Kitson finds sifting through over 30,000 letters an ‘exciting, nourishing and comforting’ process, his breathless, detailed, verbose delivery, which gathers pace towards its soaring finale, is an exhilarating experience for the audience. As details emerge, stories intertwine and revelations unfold, Kitson’s genius emerges, once again. Interminably talented, and staggeringly good. 

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
Tue 8 – Sat 12 March, 2011
Festival page  

1hr 30min, no interval

Fascinating hilarity from a mundane life

Review by Sian Robertson 09th Mar 2011

The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church is about a man who, having resolved to top himself, sits down at his typewriter to write 56 suicide notes. The letters are addressed to various people in his life, including mysterious confidante Isabel, the man at the hardware shop and the editor of his local newspaper.

Having underestimated this undertaking, he nevertheless refuses to pack it in till he’s tied up all the loose ends and made sure he’s excused all known associates of culpability for his untimely death… which ends up being postponed twenty-four years. 

Kitson makes a throwaway comment at the start: “Most of this is made up, by me… except this bit,” and he launches into the story of how he stumbled upon an attic full of letters, while viewing houses for sale, and proceeded to read all 30,000 of them in chronological order. But it’s deliberately never clear at which point fact ends and fiction begins.

A stand-up comedian, Daniel Kitson, lays out the jigsaw puzzle of a life in letters, with no props other than his notebook from which he occasionally reads carefully selected, pertinent excerpts. 

He confides in us that he’s not sure it isn’t a terrible violation (and a bit creepy) to be reading and sharing the contents of a dead man’s private letters; but he is equally concerned that Mr Church not be forgotten, nor remembered only occasionally as a two-dimensional bit of village gossip, a statistic of a lonely old man.

And so Kitson painstakingly examines the minutiae of the life of this insignificant, unadventurous if eccentric stranger, through a patchwork of letters forming a seemingly comprehensive picture. Gregory’s relationships are viewed through illuminating snippets of debates by correspondence, advice offered, fond encouragement, eloquently caustic criticism, petty complaints, perfunctory confessions, as he reaches out in the only way he knows how, from his otherwise solitary existence. 

Kitson reveals almost as much about himself – regaling us with the process of his ‘detective work’ – as we learn about Gregory Church through his letters. As obsessive as his subject, Kitson recounts hilarious anecdotes from his life and thought processes for the two years it took to read all 30,000-odd letters!

His love of words and fascination for the devious art of conversation are contagious, for example in his dealings with the real estate agent who tried to keep him from looking in the attic, making Kitson all the more determined to do so.

He jumps around chronologically, from one decade to another, quoting from letters at random to illustrate a particular point or a theory he has formulated about Gregory. He talks extremely fast, I think partly to overcome the natural, disarming nervousness he exudes, and partly to condense a quarter of a century of prolific letter writing into 90 minutes.

Sometimes bits of what he says are swallowed up by the sheer velocity of his storytelling – as though the words trip over each other in their effort to come out as fast as he is thinking them. Yet this somehow enhances rather than detracts from his ability to be engaging. Even when Kitson is talking about Gregory Church’s letter to an acquaintance on how best to cultivate onions, he has me leaning forward avidly in my seat, trying to catch every last word of his intriguing tale. 

Kitson has that rare and enviable talent: the ability to make the most mundane and boring subject seem fascinating and hilarious – he is a nimble wordsmith and ingenious storyteller.

His off-the-cuff comments are as rich in wit and inventiveness as the rest of the show; he tears a couple of strips off a rude texter in the audience with pithy efficiency, turns the occasional stumble or drink spill (his glass of water has to fight to get in edge-ways) from an awkward moment into a hilarious one, and is genuinely delighted by an eagerly helpful heckler. 

Anything but interminable, the 90 minutes flew by and, like Kitson felt when he reached the last of the letters, I felt enriched and a little sad that we had reached the end. Kitson is a first-class storyteller and comedian and it would be a crime for this show not to completely sell out! 
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Never mind the title, it’s a wonderful show

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 09th Mar 2011

If you are looking for a show that is funny and uplifting, it is unlikely that you would settle on something that has interminable and suicide in its title. But Daniel Kitson’s stunning one-man performance is an object lesson in why you should never judge a book by its cover.

The show opens with the easy conversational tone of a natural raconteur and the improvisational brilliance of a professional comedian. But once Kitson warms to his subject, words are blurted out in a breathless fever-pitch delivery and like the ancient mariner accosting a bemused wedding guest, he has the glittering eye of a man possessed by a story which simply must be told. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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