On Friday February 3 the critically acclaimed show, ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’ kicks off its national tour at the EM Forster Theatre in Tonbridge. Described as a joyful and unique, this award-winning cabaret show will delight Kate Bush fans – old and new. Here Eileen Leahy discovers more about it courtesy of its star Sarah Louise Young…
So the first question is why pick Kate Bush for your show?
I’ve aways loved Kate Bush’s music and as a child of the 70s and 80s, I remember that first appearance on Top Of The Pops and all those amazing videos and songs which followed. Plus, my brother fancied her a bit, so her music was always floating through the house!
What do you love about her?
Kate Bush is a true icon. Her music is unique, spanning nearly five decades and has won countless awards. Kate has sold millions of records, but the woman herself is something of an enigma. Not performing live for over 30 years between her 1979 Tour Of Life and 2014’s Before The Dawn, she really only spoke to us through her music.
What did fans do to compensate for not seeing her perform live for years?
In her physical absence, her fans created their own community – ‘The Fish People’. And they are at the heart of ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’. We wanted to celebrate them through her music. That was the starting point of making the show.
Do you try and impersonate her in the show?
I never set out to impersonate her (I mean who could?) But it’s amazing how many people tell me I sound like her! A few fans thought I was miming at the start of the show!
How hard is it to sing in her unique vocal range?
It’s definitely a vocally athletic workout! She sang them all live back in 1979 apart from ‘Hammer Horror’ (which we do in the show) so there’s no excuse not to do the same. What you hear on the albums is months of intricate layering of harmonies and different instruments, so it’s a more raw sound on stage, of course. I perform all the songs in their original keys and I think part of it is that because she chose such specific phrasing and wrote such intricate melodies, hearing them instantly hot-wires you back to the original.
As well as her unique voice, Kate Bush is also renowned for her dance routines. How have you trained for this?
I spent one day working with the amazing Tom Jackson Greaves, who is a director and choreographer. We watched a lot of her videos and noted down some of her choices. We explored those in our session; again, never trying to ‘be’ her, more tap into her spirit. Quite by accident, the nicknames we came up with for her moves (‘The Pulse’ and ‘The Champagne Whipcrack’, for example) found their way into the show. That’s often how it happens with devised work – you become a sponge for every impulse and they jostle around your head during the making process until they either find a home or float off into the ether.
And can you tell us about the costumes you wear, which again is something Kate is very well known for?
With the costumes too, my brilliant co-creator, Russell Lucas and I tried to evoke her, not copy her. We rub shoulders with themes (Kate uses a lot of nature and bird imagery in her work, hence the feathery headdress). The cleaner’s outfit for ‘This Woman’s Work’ is as much a nod to the cleaner’s story we mention at the start of the show, as it is to her TV special appearance where Kate sang ‘Army Dreamers’ dressed as a cleaner or archetypal vintage housewife. That’s one for the super-fans.
What kind of research did you do?
We watched a LOT of footage, interviews, videos – basically everything we could find, to get to know her journey as an artist and also how the world around her changed. Her early interviews are so uncomfortable to watch. She is often being asked truly banal or overtly sexualised questions. She is so polite and accommodating, but it’s great to see her later on her career take the reins and shut down lines of enquiry which show the interviewers have no idea what they are talking about. I also read the brilliant biography by Graeme Thomson called ‘Under the Ivy’. It’s the best music biography I have ever read and really lets you into her creative process.
Do you have to be a super-fan to enjoy An Evening Without Kate Bush?
Absolutely not! Of course if you are a super-fan you’ll hear lots of the songs you know and love – plus some little hidden gems for those in-the-know. But none of that is at the expense of the audience members who have perhaps come along with a fan friend or just out of curiosity. We elevate and celebrate everyone and when someone tells me after the show that they didn’t know her work but are going home to listen to her music, then I am thrilled.
The show is partly interactive, how does that work?
The show is as interactive as you want it to be. I’ve been working in cabaret for over 20 years and my primary aim is that the audience have a good time. It’s great to be challenged and surprised, but I want them to feel safe. That’s really important to me.
How difficult was it to decide which her songs to include?
It was a massive challenge as there are many across such a huge time span. Inevitably there are lots from her early alumnus. ‘The Kick Inside’ and ‘Hounds Of Love’ are a lot of people’s favourites and first experience of her work. When we were making the show we ran a poll on social media to see what songs people wouldn’t forgive us for not including! We take well known songs like ‘This Woman’s Work’ and ‘Cloudbusting’ and give them a twist. So if you come to see ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’ you might find yourself suddenly singing backing vocals!
Why do you think Kate Bush remains so adored and intriguing?
Her fans have travelled with her and as she has evolved as an artist, she has become the soundtrack to their lives. I also think she influenced so many other artists that the whole music scene is steeped in her musical juices as it were. She was one of the first people to experiment with the Fairlight, she mastered complex sampling of vocals including the Trio Bulgarka from Hungary and if you read the list of pop royalty lining up to play a couple of bars on her albums everyone wants to work with her. She has never shied away from writing about the largeness of life either. There are epic themes such as the loneliness of love, the wonder of creation, the sensuality of being human. Her albums are somewhere you can climb inside and dream in. She’s one of us and yet totally Other.
And finally, how would you feel if the real Kate Bush was in the audience… and would you want to know in advance?
We would absolutely LOVE it if she came to see the show – although she’d have to wear a disguise as I think the audience would capsize if they knew she was in. When we were making it we always knew we wanted it to be something she would approve of – so it’s been created with love, respect and a hefty dose of joyful eccentricity!
An Evening Without Kate Bush is performed by Sarah Louise Young and made with Russell Lucas. It will be at the EM Forster Theatre on Friday February 3, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £17. www.emftheatre.com