KISSY KISSY
KISSY KISSY (FringeTIX)
The Black Lung @ The Black Lung Theatre
9:30pm, Thu 15 Mar 2007
I arrived a touch early - people are streaming out onto Hindley Street. Assuming they're exiting from the previous show, I wait for the flow to slow to a trickle, then enter. The foyer is still packed. I bump into Thomas again - he recognises me. "Hey, you came back!" he exclaims, genuinely surprised and with a hint of frantic in his eyes - there are people everywhere. I assure him that he'll be seeing a lot more of me, too, given the impact of Rubeville. Before darting off, Thomas says "just check -in with Genevieve up front - we're a bit busy tonight, and I want you to get a good seat."
Illuminated by a desk-lamp and clad in white, Genevieve is a beacon at the front-of-house. Amidst a sea of sweaty and apprehensive folks, many eying with trepidation the rough interior of the Black Lung for the first time, she's an island of calm, telling the unprepared that this evening's performance is sold out, but if they'd like they can go on the waiting list for a standing-only spot. Very friendly and with a gorgeous smile, but careful with it. The house is restless - it's hot and humid, and the hype is here.
Kissy Kissy has gone down well with the press. Word-of-mouth seems to be spreading, too.
Eventually the audience moves into the performance area… it's not much cooler in there. The performers are sitting in the front row - he looks pensive, she looks cold and detached. We're all in and seated (except for those lucky to be standing), and the performance is off & running.
Ostensibly, this is a very simple show - we're presented with a man and woman. We see them as they meet, a gloriously - and laughably - tense first kiss; we're with them as the relationship flourishes; we're attached when it all goes horribly wrong. But for all the rough-hewn nature of the Black Lung Theatre, Kissy Kissy is polished to the n'th degree - it glimmers and shines and connects with the audience in a way that few other performances do.
There's stunning use of music - "Whole Lotta Love", "The Final Countdown", "Eternal Flame" all impart massive comedic relief into proceedings, and the audience bears witness to perhaps the best sex scene ever portrayed in a Fringe show. There's some Dylan-esque card-flipping, cunning lighting (even though the main overhead light died in the middle of the piece), and a mournful wave goodbye.
But none of that's what makes Kissy Kissy so compelling… in the bright light of day, I have to admit that it's far from the most powerful show. Nor the funniest. Nor the grittiest. Nor the edgiest.
What Kissy Kissy has - and has in spades - is familiarity and heart.
It's all true. Every bit of this performance rang true to me. I've seen it all; none of it seemed contrived, it was real to me. And because the relationship builds upon this familiarity, you aren’t watching these people on-stage; you are the people on-stage. The breakup, when it comes, is genuinely heartbreaking for the audience, because it's happening to them.
Or maybe it's just me.
Regardless, this is the most engaging piece of theatre I've seen in ages. It connected.
It was me.