If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me at the Young VicCultureTheatre
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me is not a play in the traditional sense of the word, more a gig performed theatrically. It is not a tribute-band-style rendition of New Wave artists, but an introspective exploration of songs that made up the soundtrack of Jane Horrocks’ childhood in the 1970s and 80s. It could even be seen as a portrayal of the development of a person through music. And even with the collaboration of Emmy and Grammy award-winning producer Kippy and Rat Scabies from the Damned, this production’s rightful place is on the stage, not a concert.
It is a modern look at music and the influence it has. Horrocks, perhaps best known for her role as Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous, sings throughout, only occasionally speaking lyrics. She is herself but has equally not been assigned a character; she essentially embodies the spirit of the New Wave era. There is no linear narrative: a quartet of skilled dancers connect the songs and intensify the mood through their hypnotic movements, which switch from balletic to jerky, insect-like contortions. It is cathartic watching them express themselves so effortlessly without words – a glimpse of silent communication, their emotions easier to identify because there is no hiding behind the mask of words.
Bunny Christie’s set is simple but astounding: a huge plug dominates the stage. At one point it is switched off, plunging everything into darkness, a metaphor for our reliance on technology, perhaps, or just a part of the artistic layering that makes the play so fascinating to watch? The play is (as Horrocks sing-speaks) “an archaeology exercise, really.” It excavates the songs from their original context of 1970s Manchester, known for its grime, grubbiness and soul, transposing them into a modernised and sterilised setting, devoid of cultural artefacts, thus focusing on the lyrics, their meaning and their timeless relevance. The production takes us away from the stereotyped image of bands that often clouds our perception of their work, with none of the cosy nostalgia of a 70s-themed club night.
She is 52 but could be 20: Horrocks is as timeless as the music. If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me is an explosive hour. It captivates and invigorates, leaving its audience with a fire and a determination. It is a must-see.
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me is on at the Young Vic from 10th March until 16th April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.