An Evening Without Kate Bush
Reviewed – 8th February 2022
“cabaret, comedy, anecdote, parody and vocal virtuosity all rolled into one glorious hour of fun”
Most people of a certain age have a first-hand memory of Kate Bush’s ethereal ‘Wuthering Heights’ reaching number one on the UK singles chart. She was just eighteen when she wrote it, in the course of one night, but it secured her place in musical history. So much so that her comeback concert residency at the Hammersmith Apollo thirty-five years later sold out within fifteen minutes. Despite dropping out of the public eye for a couple of decades Bush’s fan base is global and still crosses all generational divides.
You don’t need to be one of those fans, though, to appreciate Sarah-Louise Young’s celebration of the singer in her one-woman cabaret show; “An Evening Without Kate Bush”. You can’t really call it a tribute act; it’s more theatrical than that. It is cabaret, comedy, anecdote, parody and vocal virtuosity all rolled into one glorious hour of fun. You get the impression that Young is one of Kate’s best mates, such is the affection with which she pokes fun at her. It is the kind of mockery born of love and respect, and she pitches it as perfectly.
Perfect pitch is the phrase that also comes to mind as Young’s veiled figure launches into the opening number: a lesser known, haunting ballad that showcases her astounding voice. When the veil comes away, we are introduced to the warmth of Young’s personality and the ease with which she plays with the audience. With a consummate cabaret artist’s skill, she makes us feel comfortable with that dreaded phrase – audience participation. ‘Kate’s not here, but you are’ she tells us as though it’s the next best thing. Her quicksilver wit bears the hallmarks of veteran comic as she wanders through the audience, hilariously improvising, before she weaves her anecdote back onto the stage for another number.
The show follows a series of songs, including many of the classics, in between which she adopts her chaotic characters with their haywire hairstyles, hats, wigs and togs. She brings people onto the stage to slow waltz to ‘Don’t Give Up’, in which she replaces Peter Gabriel’s part of the duet with a stream of Bush reminiscences. ‘Babooshka’ is sung in Russian, correcting the original’s incorrect pronunciation of the title. ‘Hounds of Love’ has us howling like hounds. Dressed as a cleaner backstage at Kate Bush’s Hammersmith gigs she reverently and plaintively gives a heart-warming rendition of ‘This Woman’s Work’, savouring every syllable before slipping back into more moments of comedy and another outrageous costume change. We are encouraged to sing along to the more familiar choruses and even take over completely for the grand finale. As the whole room cries out that ‘it’s me, I’m Cathy I’ve come home…’, Young flails around the stage echoing Bush’s ground-breaking video.
As we already know, Kate isn’t here – but if she were I’m sure she would be loving every minute of the show. You don’t need to be a fan of Kate Bush to fall in love with this performance. You don’t even need to be a fan of Sarah-Louise Young, but you will surely come away being a true fan of them both.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Steve Ullathorne
An Evening Without Kate Bush
Soho Theatre until 26th February
Previously reviewed this year by Jonathan: