If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me – Jane Horrocks performs at the Young Vic, London
This is not my music. I suspect it might make a considerable difference if it were. While I can understand the impact these songs would have made on someone in the 1970s, while I can appreciate the potency of bands like Joy Division, Buzzcocks and The Smiths, articulate, sour-tongued and sharp as a Stanley knife, these songs, as reworked here, don’t move me, they don’t stretch down into my stomach or up behind my ribs. It might be an age thing or a taste thing, but it’s not a thing you can completely ignore, given the fact that this collaboration between Jane Horrocks and the choreographer Aletta Collins is as much about memory as it is about music.
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me is an intriguing hybrid, part gig, part dance piece; it’s an hour of new wave music performed by Horrocks, a quartet of dancers and a band including Rat Scabies, a founder member of The Damned. It’s narrative-less, with little attempt made to provide a social or political context to the music, but it’s also something more than unchecked nostalgia. These are the songs of her youth and this feels like an attempt to pin something down.
Collins’ choreography is as much a part of the piece as the music. It’s at its most distinctive and twitchily brilliant in the early numbers, the movement of the dancers alternatively fidgety and balletic, their limbs moving in a jerky Ian Curtis fashion, at times all sex and swagger, the performers waggling their bums, but also sometimes alien and insect-like, backs arching, legs twisting.
Horrocks, as a musical performer, has form; she has that famously big Little Voice, and considerable stage presence, petite yet also angular, her blade-cheeks framed by a blonde bob. Bunny Christie’s set is bold and playful, dominated by a huge plastic plug socket, on which Horrocks perches for her rendition of the Human League’s Empire State Human; there’s also an occasionally materialising fridge, the presence of which remains a bit of a puzzle.
The show is, says Horrocks, an archaeological exercise, but it’s one performed with gloves on. The whole production feels a little bit too clean; your lungs stay pink and smoke-free throughout, the soles of your shoes un-sticky, your hair remains free of dubious fluids. Perhaps in a venue like the Roundhouse it would have flown higher, but in the Young Vic, to a sedate and seated audience, it remains tethered, ending abruptly without ever getting really sweaty.
But, as I said, not my music, not my memories. It’s reductive to put things in boxes – gig, theatre, dance piece – but if you were forced to put this production into one, it would probably also contain some old ticket stubs, the frayed laces from a treasured pair of DMs and a few mix-tapes, much-loved and listened to over and over again.