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It Felt Like a Kiss: a sort of review

Manchester International Festival starts with a bang: Confidential editor Jonathan Schofield, gets excited phone calls all day over spooky play

Written by . Published on July 2nd 2009.


It Felt Like a Kiss: a sort of review

Confidential loves Josie Keith, known her for ages and she knows what she’s talking about as well. So getting this message, with this level of passion, meant something extraordinary is happening on Quay Street.

It’s like riding a fairground ride, run by a dodgy geezer - the kind of guy who doesn’t care if you live or die – ‘Kiss’ is rickety and terrifying and horribly real.

Manchester International Festival has clearly arrived – with a bang.

Josie wrote: ‘Confidential has to review this now, now, now. You need to get it up soon, cos it's going to be massive
‘I fell out the 'door' at the end, screaming at the usher, 'ARE YOU FUCKING REAL? TELL ME NOW, IS THIS THE FUCKING END? ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH NO, IT CAN’T BE'. Then I turned around to see Adam Curtis, the director. He had a huge grin on his face - he was 'checking out the public reaction' apparently.

‘So why was I so excited? Because this is like a guided tour, only you’re guided by sounds, and fear... imagine Kubrick and a ghost train coming together in a deserted office block for over two hours of torture, but scarier. Plus it’s genuinely opinionated and political. I've never thought this before about any piece of theatre, but it's both an amazing technical accomplishment, and a properly worthwhile piece of theatre.

‘I went with friends, and they've been going mad on Facebook and Twitter about it all day...one of them even set up a Facebook group called 'I've been through Adam Curtis’ It Felt Like a Kiss. It really has that kind of insane impact on you and I reckon the readers will want to rant like mad about it.’

Back to Josie in a minute.

The play...er, event...tells a story of the USA’s rise to power in the golden age of pop. It starts in 1959 and follows American culture through the 1960s showing how the dreams and the desires became, in many ways, global dreams and desires. It hints at the unforeseen consequences this had on the world, and with music, special effects and lights the American Dream becomes a dream/nightmare for us all.

When Josie had calmed a little (but not much) she wrote again: ‘It’s like riding a fairground ride, run by a dodgy geezer - the kind of guy who doesn’t care if you live or die – ‘Kiss’ is rickety and terrifying and horribly real.

‘What's particularly unsettling about it is that the people behind the show have not spent their money on making the 'set' (if you can call it that) look slick so you can't pretend that Kiss is a fantasy world or a stage.

Walking around, you can feel, smell and see everything, just like in real life, as you go through an experience which addresses a version of 1960s history with its politics and culture. Most hauntingly, the whole thing feels impermanent, as if might collapse at any time: it’s like the house in the rubbish dump which features in the 1980s kids’ classic Labyrinth>.

‘It's also a kind of bonding experience: you go in as a group of nine, and you get to see the characters of the people reveal themselves over the time you spend in there. This might fade but I feel I know myself a lot better now than I did yesterday and not in a good way.

‘We went with two friends, one of whom we managed to lose for an hour somewhere in the building. Afterwards, when we'd rounded everyone up, we stood outside for ages, trying to work out what had happened and what we thought about it.

‘I came to the conclusion that ‘Kiss’ is unlike anything I've seen. As I said before, it’s both technically accomplished and mentally opinionated, it's the exact opposite of the boring, often parochial, bland theatre that we’ve been programmed to hope for. I still don't know exactly what it is and what I feel about it, but I know that I want to see it again.’

This is not just Josie as well. Several people have called, some have been a tad less enthusiastic, some just as much. But the fact that they were moved to do so shows that this production is has touched a chord. Or better, perhaps, given that chord a proper grope.

There’s only one problem. At present there don’t seem to be enough tickets to go round. The only ones left are returns.

Maybe on its first full day of the festival (Thursday 2 July), the organisers should think about extra shows. What a start.

There’s another problem.

As editor I’m wondering whether to pull rank over Lynda Moyo in the office. Tell her she’s already got De La Soul why would she need to go to some theatre in a redundant office block. Actually that may entice her. In August Confidential is moving into the Quay Street building that's hosting It Felt Like a Kiss. She might want a preview.

It Felt Like a Kiss was created by Adam Curtis and Felix Barrett with Punchdrunk. Original music composed by Damon Albarn. Directed by Felix Barrett. Film by Adam Curtis. Recording produced by Damon Albarn and David Harrington. It finishes on Sunday 19 July. Tickets £25. www.mif.co.uk.

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BobJuly 2nd 2009.

I went last night too - absolutely amazing, thought provoking, scary, the film was fantastic - it got to me on so many levels - I think they should arrange some kind of discussion between everyone who goes through this!!!! I simply can't express what this production does to you as you go through it as a group. It was a shame that there was a problem right at the end in getting the groups through as it was far too hot and the wait 'broke' the mood a bit but that sort of thing can't be helped and it didn't stop the climax of the event being truly chilling stuff.

Craig GeeJuly 2nd 2009.

Truly astonishing. Go. Josie's so right.

MahindinhoJuly 2nd 2009.

ABSOLUTELY BLOODY BRILLIANT!Two housemates and I moseyed on down yesterday at 6.40pm or so, ticketless, expecting to be turned away and having to skulk off to see Elbow (not bad for a Plan B).Instead, we were told that we could go straight in if we were quick, as there were four spaces in the group. So we did. The rush set us up nicely for the next two hours, almost two-and-a-half. We didn't want it to end. Even at the end.To anyone dithering about not having a ticket -- just go early and hope you get lucky like we did.@Feeble -- it's in Quay House, next to the Opera House, with the entrance at the far side of the building as you head down Quay St from Deansgate. There's a big MIF sign on the building on the Spinningfields side, but just a "Quay House" banner on the Quay St side.

JonnyWJuly 2nd 2009.

I want to leave a comment but I don't really know what to say, other than that I went last night and had a phenomenally terrifying experience. Plato's Cave has got nowt on this. Unbelievable.

JinkiesJuly 2nd 2009.

Certainly sounds better than a bull ****ing a car, that's for sure :)

AnonymousJuly 2nd 2009.

What production Sally?

feebleJuly 2nd 2009.

Going on Saturday & worried about not finding it - which building is it exactly?

GregJuly 2nd 2009.

Two of my friends are currently undergoing counselling after seeing this - could there be a better recommendation? Please someone send me a ticket!

tomegranateJuly 2nd 2009.

EJ - I feel the same way, lucky indeed! Got my ticket about 4 hours before hand, then managed to not find the bloody place in time, but they kindly let me in in a later group.I was stunned, the closest thing I can think to compare it to is Beamish, and that's totally off-whack of course. The ending, oh my god!

Mark Garner, the PublisherJuly 2nd 2009.

Attention MIF personnel! Will whoever it was who called me on Wednesday to check if I was cominmg tonight and had been emailing the wrong account please call me to confirm they have got the right one as I still have nothing in my email and after comments like this article I am now wetting my pants about the possibilty of missing anything. mark garner aka Gordo

EJJuly 2nd 2009.

I was another one who went last night, absolutely incredible, unnerving and exciting, real surrreality if that even makes sense! I was buzzing until 2 in the morning. Very lucky to get a ticket, but made up to have seen it. A massive hats off to all those involved in producing this.

hit the northJuly 2nd 2009.

Have to agree with all the comments above. Went last night and at the preview price this was an absolute bargain of a show.I won't go into any details because you have to go into this without knowing what to expect.The closest experience I've had was Nightmare on Church Street in downtown Orlando many years ago, but whereas that was pure tourist entertainment this was something much deeper, had a lot to say, and messed with your mind in very different ways.It's a shame everyone I know hasn't been or isn't going because it is something you want to talk about, but can't even start to explain to someone the emotions, the scale of the event, and the attention to detail etc.If you can beg a ticket then go.

speechlessJuly 2nd 2009.

went last night, absopultely AMAZING. the most fantastic, scary, challenging experience. the whole 'production' (for want of a better word) was an assault on my senses from the moment I hesitanlty asked the MIF volunteer if the hut I was standing at was in fact the entrance until i ran out screaming!Brilliant, just brilliant.

SallyFJuly 2nd 2009.

Jonathan do you have the link for the flickr group?And also - eeps crikey not sure I could work in that office block after seeing (if that's the right word, which it isn't really) that production.Must say I agree entirely with what Josie says. And yes some of us were lucky enough to have a chat with Adam Curtis about it at the end. Once we'd manage to regain control of our mind and breathing again that is.

JJJuly 2nd 2009.

I'm one of the more cautious about this. Certainly it held my interest; undoubtedly it was original and thought provoking, and I find myself 24 hours later still flashing back to parts of the event; even the soundtrack in the hairdressers today brought on a feeling of unease. But I'm not entirely convinced. Don't want to say too much cos it could spoil it for those going in the future, but I still haven't found the coherence between what actually scared me last night and what is really scary about 20th, and 21st century western democracies. But if you can go, do.

Plane sightJuly 2nd 2009.

Unbelievable stuff. Go, queue up for returns and beg

AnonymousJuly 2nd 2009.

I was completely freaked. Still got the thing running round my head. Not sure what I got about the 1960s idea yet, but was overwhelmed

shinealightJuly 2nd 2009.

Great. This just makes my failure to get tickets even more upsetting - but I have got Elbow tickets so mustn't grumble!

CSJuly 2nd 2009.

I went on Tuesday. Then I went home and tried to tell my poor, ticketless partner about it. Unfortunately, my head was so scrambled that I merely spouted a stream of hyperbole in his general direction before tailing off into a stupified silence. Three days later I'm still trying to find the right way to describe the show without using the phrase, "Sell your firstborn for tickets".

JohnJuly 2nd 2009.

I went last night and it was a truly astounding evening. I've never experienced anything quite like it. It's a shame that it's sold out as I want all my friends to attend, as I'm struggling to do it justice through words alone.

Travis BickleJuly 2nd 2009.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for this at short notice. Have to agree with everything said above - it's mind blowing. Some people think the theatre is dull and irrrelevant - and a lot of it is exactly that. Yet Punchdrunk show that theatre can also be bold, provocative and exciting. I learnt somethings from Felt like a Kiss; chiefly about the CIA-backed assassination of Congo's first-elected president, Patrice Lumumba. This was just one of many shocking interventions by the American government, driven by corporate greed; an attempt to exploit the Congo's rich mineral resources by installing a puppet dictator of America's choosing (the right wing President Mobuto, coincidentally a ruthless mass murderer who 'extinguished' any and all dissenting voices). Even if you don't remember any of that stuff, the visuals and the mood will stay with you for days afterwards, particularly the scary tunnel walk at the end (like being trapped inside the Warren Beatty film The Parallax View). I can't recommend Felt Like a Kiss strongly enough. Beg! Borrow! Steal!

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