Sarah-Louise Young is one of Edinburgh Fringe's most respected and sought after musical variety performers, and it's no stretch of the imagination to see why, as she delivers a true masterpiece here that only she (and potentially Kate Bush) could pull off. Right from her hauntingly beautiful opening, mysteriously veiled and flaunting her stunning voice, she holds the audience in the palm of her hand. It becomes apparent as she unveils the first of her immaculate costumes that this is a full on cabaret show, and no mere tribute act.
Savours every moment, as she lets rip physically and vocally without an imperfect note or phrasing in sight.
Young takes on the guise of a quasi-Kate Bush that is a sophisticated portrayal and bonafide love letter, rather than parody. The presentation is superb, and before long, the audience is howling along to Hounds of Love and made to feel welcome regardless of the extent of the connection we feel to the music. She addresses the audience with the panache that only a highly seasoned master of their trade can. Her professionalism is reinforced with an improvised song directly to her sound tech over a mild technical hiccup, and respectfully handling a woman who had been on her phone, in a manner that prompted applause from the whole room.
The format takes a series of songs, including all the classics, plus Babooshka in Russian, interwoven with anecdotal and comical links and trivia, a cascade of kooky characters, and some costumes that would make a burlesquer envious. Her use of audience members is inspiring, as she brings one of the younger Bush fans onto stage to back up the chorus to Cloudbusting and invites a couple to slowdance behind her during a romantic ballad. The stagecraft is awestriking and Young savours every moment as she lets rip physically and vocally without an imperfect note or phrasing in sight. We are encouraged to sing along as much – or little – as we desire, and even take the lead on Wuthering Heights as she prances about elegantly on stage.
It is clear from the start that even non-Bush-worshippers will be able to access the material. Familiarity with the songs is not even a prerequisite to enjoy it, and those who do worship Bush will soon worship Young as well. So long as you aren't prejudiced against the music, there is a huge amount of joy to be found within this hour. If An Evening Without Kate Bush were on the paid fringe, everyone in the city would be talking about it. The fact it is hosted by PBH's Free Fringe gives it an intimate feel, despite it being in their most luxurious venue, and anybody who admires Bush, or would consider delving further into her oeuvre, will be introduced to a very special world.