Sarah-Louise Young: An Evening Without Kate Bush

by | Dec 5, 2023

An actress, writer, director, improviser and internationally renowned cabaret performer, Sarah-Louise Young comes to Sydney Festival for An Evening Without Kate Bush – a glorious celebration of the irresistible forces and incandescent genius of Kate Bush and the fans who adore her.

Read on to learn more about the show, the star and the fan in both:

What was the inspiration for the show and what is it about this show that you consider to be enduring?

The idea for the show first came from its co-creator, fellow Kate Bush fan and theatre-maker, Russell Lucas. (We’d had success together on a Julie Andrews cabaret ‘Julie Madly Deeply’, which premiered at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2013 before touring the world, including runs Off Broadway and in London’s West End.) We were fascinated by the fact Kate Bush hadn’t performed live for 35 years and yet her fans had remained loyal and strong. Just as we were about to preview the show, she announced her comeback in 2014 with ‘Before The Dawn’! As devotees were thrilled, but we decided to wait a few years before returning to our idea as we didn’t want to appear opportunistic. The engine for the show remained the same: the unfailing love and devotion of fans for an artist who keeps on evolving and innovating. I think that’s the appeal of our show too – it keeps evolving and growing and it’s made with 100% love. We’ve had people in the UK come back to see it over 10 times!

How would you describe the show to someone who knew very little about it?

It’s an interactive, playful, anarchic, loving, bonkers, touching, respectful, musical, tribute-but-not-a-tribute, clown-cum-gig. Expect laughter, tears, costume changes and a touch of mayhem. After every performance at least one audience member will come up to me and say, “It wasn’t at ALL what I was expecting, but I LOVED it!”

What are some of the themes involved and why are these important?

Community is at the heart of ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’. Whether you’re a fan of her songs or not, the show invites you to celebrate the power of music and its capacity to move us, especially when shared together with others.

What do you love the most about the festival performance and what is particularly great about the Sydney Festival?

Festival audiences are so open-minded. They’ve come for a good time, and they take risks. I love the idea that someone might have seen something which made them giggle at the start of the evening and weep by the end. With our show we aim to do both. Also, Sydney has long since been on my wish list for this show. It has a HUGE Kate Bush fan base and it’s a beautiful city. I can’t wait to perform here.

What excites you the most about appearing live – what keeps the fire in the belly burning?

No two shows are ever the same. I invite people to share their favourite songs and stories and weave them into the narrative, so sometimes a moment can be humorous and daft one day, and emotional and uplifting the next. I have a background in improvisation and cabaret, so I love that interactive and immersive element. I also love meeting new people and allowing them to shine by putting the spotlight on them. But there is no pressure to join in. If you want to sit back and just listen to the music, you can – but don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to sway.

What sort of artist do you consider yourself – how would you describe yourself as a creative?

I’m a storyteller first, whether that’s through song or dance, theatre or television. First I find the story I want to tell, and then uncover how best to communicate it.’ Work in progress’ is one of my favourite phrases. Creating art is a constant act of renewal and discovery and I’m always excited to share what I’ve made with an audience. To me they are the most important ingredient!

Who inspires you and why?

I love artists who keep questioning and pushing their own and the audiences’ boundaries. Dr Brown, Victoria Falconer, Reuben Kaye, Apphia Campbell, David Hoyle, Le Gateau Chocolat… to name a few. There are so many great creatives out there. Elf Lyons, who is also appearing in the Sydney Festival is a big inspiration. I loved her early shows but at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe she came back with a two-hander with Duffy using BSL. It was genius. See her ‘Raven’ if you can.

What is next for you?

After Sydney I’ll be taking ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’ on tour, including to Perth and Adelaide and then racing back to Europe to appear at the National Theatre Of Belgium in a cabaret musical called ‘Alma’. I play the title role and am performing for the first time in French. It’s been a lot of fun to make. Think Big Brother meets Faust – with songs! I have a few other new productions bubbling away including a stage adaptation of a book I made with my husband about reuniting Smash Hit’s pen pals from the 1980s, called ‘The RSVPeople’.

And finally, what would you say to encourage audiences to attend?

If you love Kate Bush, come. If you love someone who loves Kate Bush, come. If you’ve no idea who Kate Bush is, still come. I promise you, there will be something for you!

A passionate fan since childhood, Young takes on Bush’s haunting songs, inspired costume changes and pays homage to some of the most idiosyncratic interpretive dance moves in music video history. 

Far more than an act of mimicry, An Evening Without Kate Bush is a spellbinding, shapeshifting, communal spectacle for new and diehard fans alike. 

January 18 – 21

sydneyfestival.org.au

Image: Jamie Zubairi

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