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Damon Albarn Feels Punchdrunk Kiss in Manchester

By • West End
Blur singer-songwriter Damon Albarn (pictured) has teamed up with site-specific specialists Punchdrunk and BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis for a new theatre piece, It Felt Like a Kiss, which premieres at this summer’s Manchester International Festival, running from 2 to 19 July 2009 at the city’s Hardman Square.

It Felt Like a Kiss tells the story of America’s rise to power in the golden age of pop, and the unforeseen consequences it had on the world and in our minds. Beginning in 1959, the show spotlights the dreams and desires that America inspired during the 1960s, when the world began to embrace the country and its culture as never before. But as the promenade production unfolds across five floors of a “haunted house” setting, blending music with documentary and the disorientating whirl of a fairground ghost train, the audience is forced to face the dark forces that were veiled by the American dream.

The piece is created by Curtis and Felix Dennis, director of co-producer Punchdrunk, whose other award-winning pieces include The Masque of the Red Death and Faust, which transformed, respectively, Battersea Arts Centre and a disused factory in Wapping. Audiences for It Felt Like a Kiss will be admitted into Hardman Square every ten minutes in groups of eight to walk through the installation.

It Felt Like a Kiss has original music by Damon Albarn, mixed with period songs, and recorded performances by Albarn and the Kronos Quartet. Albarn’s last theatrical piece, Monkey: Journey to the West received its world premiere at the last Manchester International Festival, in 2007, and after a Royal Opera House run last year and various international engagements, was mounted earlier this year at London’s O2 Centre.

Manchester International Festival launched in 2007 and is dedicated to commissioning and presenting new work by some of the world’s leading artists and creative minds. Billing itself as “the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events”, it takes place biennially. Many of the works presented as part of the inaugural festival, such as Monkey: Journey to the West, went on to tour nationally and internationally.

Other highlights of the theatre and dance schedule for the 2009 event include: Everybody Loves a Winner, a piece created by Simon Deacon, Struan Leslie and former Lyric Hammersmith artistic director Neil Bartlett, which will transform Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre into a working bingo hall; End of the Road, the final instalment in the Young@Heart chorus’ trilogy; and a mixed programme from male ballet dancer Carlos Acosta.

- by Terri Paddock


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