An Evening Without Kate Bush at Liverpool Theatre Festival *****
“Welcome to the show – she’s not here, but you are,” says Sarah-Louise Young at the start of an evening that Kate Bush could well have kicked herself for missing.
If Bush fans are called Fish People (named after the singer-songwriter’s record label) then Young is undoubtedly one of the bigger fish in the pond.
And the performer has taken that passion and crafted a wonderfully off-beat and lyrical love letter to one of the most influential – and interesting – female voices in British music
It’s both addictively bonkers and surprisingly sincere, with Young sweeping her audience along in a shared experience of music, interpretative dance and candid personal memories – delivered with nothing more than a dressing up box and an art pop aesthetic Bush would no doubt appreciate.
In her earliest live shows, Bush (who had studied dance and mime with Birkenhead-born choreographer Lindsay Kemp) would make up to 17 costume changes. A Heath Robinson-style head mic, fashioned from a coat hanger, was designed specially to accommodate her swift switches.
Young, clad in red and black leotard and footless leggings, similarly metamorphosises from a barefoot shrouded spectre singing And Dream of Sheep at the start of the evening to an ethereal spirit in white dress dancing to Wuthering Heights while her audience sings at its close, via a series of visual tableau including a brilliantly conceived Babooshka.
Sarah-Louise Young in An Evening Without Kate Bush. Photos by David Munn
Audience participation is key to the show, with the irrepressible Young generously putting other people’s voices centre stage, encouraging them to share stories and favourite Kate Bush lyrics – and harmonic howls into the night sky.
She prowls both the stage and the room (running up and down the nave at the Bombed Out Church to speak to people along the way), telling the experimental singer-songwriter’s story in poetic, prophesising fashion - rather like Paul Bettany’s Geoff Chaucer bigging up Ulrich von Lichtenstein in A Knight’s Tale.
Meanwhile she delivers Bush numbers like Cloudbusting, King of the Mountain, Hounds of Love, Army Dreamers, Running Up That Hill and The Man With the Child in His Eyes in a voice with a hint of her subject’s singular singing tone but also with the bell like clarity of Mary Hopkin.
You don’t have to be one of the Fish People to enjoy it, but you might well want to join their shoal by the end.