Review: Dreaming of Kate at the Epstein Theatre
February 6, 2016
What makes tribute acts so popular? Perhaps it’s the accessibility – not all artists are easy to see live. Maybe it’s the idea of watching fans perform (or even reimagine) the hits of famous musicians. It could even be the tribute act themselves; some become celebrated amongst fans, famed for their fresh take on a much-loved performer. For Dreaming of Kate, it’s all three.
As a Kate Bush tribute act, Dreaming of Kate have a lot to achieve. Kate herself is a household name, yet she’s not well-known for touring. Her two tours to date were in 1979 and 2014, the latter such a huge cultural event that all 22 dates sold out in under 15 minutes. Because of this rarity, fans form tribute acts and perform the hits themselves, which leads to them becoming well-known amongst the Kate Bush fan community – hence why Dreaming of Kate fills the popularity quota.
We shouldn’t think of tribute acts as “Why should I attend this instead of seeing the actual artist?” Instead, we should ask “What do I want to get out of seeing this act?” Kate Bush paints images of fantasy worlds, fascinating people and dreamlike moments; there’s a sense of escapism, but also a sense of reality. Perhaps what we want from a Kate Bush tribute act is to capture a little part of this, or even subvert it and present it to us differently.
Initially, Dreaming of Kate seems to be the former. Opening number ‘Wow’ is reminiscent of Bush’s own video for the song, complete with manic arm spinning, twirling, and a beautiful flowing dress. All this is performed with style and grace by Maaike Breijman, the show’s lead, who not only bears a strong resemblance to a young Kate Bush but contains the dramatic energy required to carry the theatrical elements of the show. Her voice is not unlike Kate’s, yet also feels suited to the theatre, granting us a performer who knows her way around a Kate Bush song and how to bring it to life.
As the show progresses, it’s clear that the members of Dreaming of Kate are not necessarily mimicking Kate, but showing how she has impacted their lives. If the beginning of the show was a way to ease fans into the experience, then the rest of the show is a love letter, a reimagining of Kate Bush’s discography. ‘Violin’ is visualised as the story of a girl who rebels against her music teacher, while ‘The Wedding List’ bears a heavy resemblance to its source material, The Bride Wore Black. These are very much Kate’s songs, but it feels like the group have added their own little charm to the tracks.
While many of Kate’s biggest hits are present (‘Hounds of Love’, ‘Babooshka’, ‘This Woman’s Work’), the lesser-known choices are fascinating. Some Kate Bush fans may not know ‘Under The Ivy’, a b-side to ‘Running Up That Hill’, yet its beautiful performance lies in its simplicity – onstage is just Maaike and her keyboard. It’s these tracks which suggest that while the show is perfect for hardcore Kate fans, the true appeal is in the song quality.
Admittedly, it’s a little disappointing to not see any Aerial or 50 Words For Snow tracks (perhaps Maaike’s vocal register is better suited to Kate’s older material?) yet the tracklist throughout the two hour show is strong. Some fans will be disappointed that their favourite tracks are missing, but the performers have chosen not just the biggest songs, but some of the most fascinating and most beautiful tracks, ones which provide both a visual and aural treat. For many, that surely captures the very essence of Kate Bush.
It’s clear that Dreaming of Kate is its very own dedication to the legacy of arguably one of the most iconic British acts ever. The legendary ‘Wuthering Heights’, playing near the end of the night, reminding us of the impact Kate Bush has had on the world of music. In contrast, the show opts to end with ‘December Will Be Magic Again’, a suitable track as the performance took place on December 3rd, yet still a left-field choice. For this number, Maaike dances across the stage in a warm, stylish outfit, eventually travelling through the audience to pass out Christmas cards.
This is where the key element of the show lies – it’s magical. Dreaming of Kate is very much a worthy Kate Bush tribute, yet it’s an incredibly strong show all its own. The performances are otherworldly, the members of the group charming, and the entire show captivating, but most of all, it’s enjoyable. The group’s connection with the audience is clear; these people also heavily respect Kate Bush.