Entertainment & Arts

Jane Horrocks sings The Smiths in If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me

Jane Horrocks in rehearsal for If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me Image copyright JOHAN PERSSON
Image caption Jane Horrocks in rehearsal for If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me

Actress and singer Jane Horrocks talks about the inspiration behind her new theatre show If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

What do you get if you cross a dance show with a gig by The Smiths?

The answer might look something like If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me - a new kind of theatrical experience about to open at London's Young Vic.

Accompanied by a live band and a company of dancers, Ab Fab star Jane Horrocks will belt out a selection of mainly new wave songs she grew up with in Lancashire in the late 70s and early 80s.

"It's music from my past - most of the songs are from northern, male bands in the late 1970s and early 80s," Horrocks explains. "Some of them are very loyal, but most are reinvented. They've got a bit more of a contemporary edge to them."

Horrocks chose the songs along with her partner, screenwriter Nick Vivian, who she describes as "a human Spotify".

The set list - which mixes singles with lesser-known album tracks - features Joy Division's Atrocity Exhibition and Isolation, Buzzcocks' Fiction Romance and What Do I Get? and The Human League's Empire State Human.

Image copyright JOHAN PERSSON
Image caption Horrocks and the band have also recorded a soundtrack album

Other songs include Soft Cell's Memorabilia, The Smiths' I Know It's Over, New Order's Temptation and Morrissey's Life Is a Pigsty.

Horrocks admits that the first record she bought was from a very different genre.

"I think it was David Essex. My mum and dad's music tastes influenced me massively - like Shirley Bassey and big-band stuff like Count Basie. My brother was a massive influence too - he had contemporary tastes like David Bowie and Marc Bolan and then punk and post-punk stuff. I had those musical genres running in conjunction."

Horrocks says she was always attracted to "torch song singers" like Ian Curtis, Morrissey and Marc Almond.

"Ian Curtis's and Morrissey's lyrics are amazing - they are proper poets. A lot of Ian Curtis's lyrics you can't actually hear, so I thought it would be nice to hear them clearly, as you can in our version of Isolation."

'Turning theatre on its head'

The concept for the show sprang from Horrocks's wish to combine a narrative with songs in a way that didn't make it a traditional musical. She took the idea to the Young Vic's artistic director David Lan, who was keen to develop it.

The result, described by Lan as "part dance piece, part gig", is directed and choreographed by Aletta Collins. The on-stage band features Rat Scabies from punk icons The Damned on drums.

Image copyright JOHAN PERSSON
Image caption Horrocks will be accompanied by a live band and a company of dancers

"It's a love story that starts out a bit cynical but has a happier ending," says Horrocks. "There's a little bit of dialogue."

Given that the songs take centre stage, why put it in a theatre and not a gig venue?

"I wanted it to be a theatrical experience with a proper set," says Horrocks. "Bunny Christie's design is very rock'n'roll but it's very theatrical as well.

"The team are all theatre-based but they are thinking in a gig mode. Everybody is being taken out of their comfort zone. It's turning theatre on its head and mixing it up."

Horrocks, who won acclaim for her ability to mimic the likes of Edith Piaf, Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey in the stage and screen versions of Little Voice, is no stranger to the Young Vic. She performed there in Annie Get Your Gun in 2009 and The Good Soul of Szechuan in 2008.

She's best known on TV for her role as Bubble, the ditzy media PA in sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

Image caption Jane Horrocks as Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous

Our interview takes place a day after the actress has added a new talent to her CV - that of fashion model.

She'd appeared on the catwalk at London Fashion Week as part of a showcase by designers Vin + Omi, who created the wacky costumes for Bubble in the forthcoming film Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

"Working with Vin + Omi and costume designer Rebecca Hale was the best part for me," says Horrocks of her big-screen reunion with the Ab Fab gang.

Newspaper photos taken during filming in January showed Horrocks wearing an outlandish outfit festooned with inflatable hashtag slogans.

"We wanted to make Bubble as here and now as possible and they were the perfect designers to do that," Horrocks explains. "This is the first time in all my years of Ab Fab that I've actually focused on the fashion side."

Meanwhile, Horrocks says rehearsals for If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me have "a really nice vibe" although she admits she's finding the dance routines a challenge.

"I think the other dancers think I'm like a lump of lead when I have to be choreographed, but when I'm allowed to go freestyle I'm OK.

"It's going to be a visual feast."

If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me runs from 10 March - 16 April at the Young Vic