Before there was Ga Ga, Bjork or Sia, there was Kate Bush. Considered by some as genius, by others as just plain weird, Bush has entertained and bemused for some five decades with her otherworldly vocals and lashings of theatrical flair.
Tonight, she’s not here, but we are. Created by Sarah-Louise Young- who has cut her comedic chops with stints in Fascinating Aïda, and the award-winning musical improv troupe The Showstoppers- and Russell Lucas, ‘An Evening Without…” celebrates not just the music but the loyal and devoted fans who have steadfastly followed their idol for years.
Describing this show as merely a ‘tribute act’ would do a massive injustice to Young’s sensational performance. Whilst she modestly brushes away any ambition to sound precisely like Bush, (‘who could?’ she smiles) it’s about as damned close as anyone is likely to get; Young using her own versatile voice to superb effect.
She brings a brilliantly oddball cast of characters to life, sharing their experiences of watching Kate Bush – be it the cleaner from her London Apollo come back gigs or a stalker who breaks into Bush’s home to find not sacrificial virgins or dungeons as they might have expected, but instead an aga and baking equipment.
One of the cleverest and funniest moments comes from the re-creation of a Soviet superfan, resulting in a show-stopping rendition of Babooshka in fluent Russian.
But what really sends this show into the stratosphere is the wonderfully comedic, physical interpretations of some of Bush’s most well-known numbers as well as a few B-side gems. With hilarious nods to our chanteuse’s eclectic wardrobe collection, Young twirls and leaps across the stage, and amongst the audience to their total delight.
She also regularly involves us in her shenanigans, be it providing howls in ‘Hounds of Love’; pulling two unsuspecting attendees onto stage to ‘da na na’ their way through ‘Cloudbusting’ in place of a backing track; or our enthusiastic joining in for the ‘Wuthering Heights’ finale, as she pirouettes and prances about in that famous white dress.
Indeed, this reviewer finds herself and husband being pulled to our feet to recreate the video for ‘Don’t Give Up’ – a duet performed originally with Peter Gabriel – which involves us slow-dancing on the spot for six and a half minutes, the rest of the audience lighting us with their mobile phones, whilst Young returns to the stage to sing.
There is no malice in any of it. No-one is put in a position to be ridiculed, merely to enhance the celebration of a unique artist. Everything is done with a genuine sense of warmth and love. Love for the singer, love for Young’s own craft as a performer and, ultimately, love for the fans.
The open-air setting of St Luke’s Bombed Out Church makes the perfect venue for tonight’s proceedings. As twilight settles on the ruins, casting wonderfully gothic shadows, combined with ethereal lighting arrangements from our technical crew, you feel like you’ve been immersed in one of Bush’s own intensely theatrical videos. It will be interesting to see how this will translate in the more traditional bricks and mortar theatres on the tour.
From start to finish, it’s a show that fixes a permanent grin to your face and it’s over all too soon. If aliens beamed into the audience, they’d be on the next space shuttle home to order Bush’s entire back catalogue from the Martian equivalent of iTunes.
Because it matters not whether you are a long-term ‘Fish person’ (an in-joke nod to die-hard fans) or only vaguely know Bush’s most famous songs, this is a joyful baptism into her enigmatic world.
The UK tour runs through September/October before transferring to London’s Soho theatre in February 2022. For full tour dates visit https://www.withoutkatebush.com/
For further information on the remaining Liverpool Theatre Festival programme visit https://www.liverpooltheatrefestival.com/
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 6th September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★