A special site-specific performance as part of Physical Fest (which has seemingly enjoyed something of a bumper, and very diverse, year of programming in 2016), You Kissed Me was a challenging, beautiful one-woman show that may have only played to a handful of people over several performances, yet will undoubtedly have provided an experience not a one of us will forget.
A small number of us were met on a corner of Lodge Lane, after dark, by a guide wanting to show us a house. He led our little band to 41 Ritson Street, a two-up-two-down Victorian terrace idential to all the others in the road. We went inside, the door closed behind us. Our ‘estate agent’ left us to nose as if it was any old viewing; the lights were dim, the house was stripped bare as if abandoned, with newspaper covering the windows and textured wallpaper hanging in strips from the ceiling and walls; it was after dark in not-exactly-the-most-salubrious part of town, we were in the company of strangers – all rookie horror film mistakes, it may have been starting to dawn on us.
With our curiosity piqued and suitably unnerved, performer Fionnuala Dorrity made her presence known. There were audible gasps, profanities, exclamations, from the audience. Less a matter of big budget tricks than good, old-fashioned theatricality. As some kind of gothic Mrs Havisham grotesque, Dorrity began to slowly lead us from the kitchen to the downstairs bathroom, up and down the stairs, singing a surreal torch song in the (extremely) confined space of each room. The intrigue in listening such an unusual and beautiful voice may well have been why we hadn’t all run screaming into the night; The resonance of Florence Welch combined with the feminine vulnerability of Kate Bush in the rich lament of her vocals.
Details were there to be observed, if one could tear their attention from Dorrity’s mesmeric and utterly captivating performance (she also sings as one half of Dead Belgium), appearing to give the impression that each room represented a different decade in the life of the house. Her movements and physical performance suggested that, as an audience, we had stumbled upon some kind of lost soul. An unconventional flesh-and-blood resident? A ghost? The very spirit of the house itself? …None of the above?
Her song, so beautiful and so haunting, the intensity of such an intimate performance, the attention to artistic detail and the tender examination of the history of a house, a home, a life within it: All contributed to a profoundly moving work, unsettling yet delicate, ethereal yet everyman.
On a personal note, it left me at once unsettled and spellbound, and I wasn’t the only one struggling to compose myself as we filtered back out into reality; it had been such a unique and vivid experience, I awoke the next morning genuinely wondering if it had all been a dream. Promenade and site-specific theatre very rarely affects an audience as deeply as You Kissed Me managed with its exquisite storytelling, abstract style, beautiful soundscape, and unexpected emotional sucker punch.