If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me Reviewed: Never Mind The Horrocks

If You Kiss Me Kiss Me, Young Vic Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Stuart Black Last edited 26 months ago
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me Reviewed: Never Mind The Horrocks If You Kiss Me Kiss Me, Young Vic Theatre 3
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me at the Young Vic © Johan Persson.

"This is an archaeological exercise," drawls Jane Horrocks halfway through her hour-long revue of late punk and early 80s new wave songs, If You Kiss Me Kiss Me. It’s a helpful explanation as to why she's chosen to sing these dozen or so obscure tunes and wilfully left out any crowd-pleasers.

The songs clearly mean a lot to her, no doubt evoking her own Lancashire schooldays and the sweaty northern nightclubs where teens could escape to if they were lucky. But they have fewer associations for an average London audience who, last night, looked honestly a bit bemused by a gig put on in a theatre rather than a concert hall which felt more like a karaoke night in an overdesigned disco in Milan.

Horrocks has a reservoir of goodwill thanks to her roles in Ab Fab and Little Voice and she can belt out the numbers, but she tested the patience here with a show that had just a whiff of the vanity project about it. Sadly, you could feel the crowd’s bonhomie ebbing from song to song. After a series of B-sides from Joy Division, Soft Cell and The Fall, leaving us with a bug-eyed rendition of Life Is A Pigsty by The Smiths felt more like a morose provocation than an advert for the scene the show she devised with choreographer Aletta Collins set out to celebrate.

It does look great however. Designer Bunny Christie gives us a long white catwalk with a giant electric plug at one end, though it’s unclear what this signifies exactly (power? domesticity? the great source of all electronic music?). Whatever, it acts as a nice prop for Horrocks to clamber over as she sings The Human League’s Empire State Human with its Saturday morning cartoon lyrics: "I wanna be tall, tall, tall, as big as a wall, wall, wall" (which sounds just as ludicrous when sung as it looks written down).

Four dancers gyrate throughout the show, their jerky, insectoid moves reminiscent of Ian Curtis in full flow. The moves are punky and occasionally filthy (a couple keeps falling into a none too subtle cunnilingus position).

This feels like the two fingered salute Horrocks always wanted to give her teachers back in class in the late 70s, which is fine, but it’s hard to see exactly what the point of that is now that she's a massively successful 52 year old. The show has passion and some style, but ultimately it's unlikely to convert non-fans of this hard-to-love musical genre.

If You Kiss Me Kiss Me runs at the Young Vic until 16 April. Tickets £10-£35. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 18 March 2016