Review: The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church
This review originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au
The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church begins at the beginning, with Daniel Kitson’s discovery of a single letter to anIsabel, written by Gregory Church, unsigned and still in a typewriter, sitting in the loft of a house while house hunting. Seemingly a suicide letter, the first letter Kitson read was the last letter Gregory wrote. The first letter Gregory wrote, Kitson was later to discover after taking possession of every box of letters in the attic, was a suicide letter written 24 years earlier, also to Isabel.
Over the course of those 24 years in 90 minutes, Kitson moves us through the letters, through the life of a man who is, by all accounts, rather ordinary, except this is the story of a suicide postponed because there were simply too many letters to write. And in these letters, Kitson has found a fondness for a man and has made his life extraordinary to us.
Kitson talks us through the letters of Gregory Church at a manic and rolling pace. Aware there is no way he could possibly make it through 30,000 letters (sent and received) in just 90 minutes, the faster Kitson can talk the more he is going to fit in. His thoughts seem to race ahead of the pace he can speak, excitement in sharing his discovery greater than he can contain, as sentences fly out in every which way, sprawling across the audience in a net of mystery, a puzzle which Kitson desperately wants us to solve before the evening is out. Words tumble and fly over one another, occasionally held up by a stutter, and yet through this velocity Kitson remains absolutely clear, clever, and fantastically funny.
Kitson is an incredible wordsmith as he rolls through the letters, using his vast vocabulary and fondness for words detailing the intricate relationships Gregory formed. Racing through facts and figures about Gregory, and his formed pen-pals lives, Kitson has the air of a scientist, a researcher, and rightly so: he dedicated the best part of two years, and sacrificed walls of his home to scribbling flowcharts, to decipher the mystery.
In the vast hall of the Auditorium at Town Hall, Kitson doesn’t embellish his production with anything more than his storytelling. There are no sets, the only prop a small black notebook that he consults to quote directly from the letters. And nothing more is needed. Kitson and Gregory Church hold the room in what is ultimately a hopeful story of a life lived.