It Felt Like a Kiss

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It Felt Like a Kiss
Adam Curtis It Felt Like A Kiss Promotional Poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Written by
Date premiered2 July 2009 (2009-07-02)
Place premieredManchester International Festival
Original languageEnglish
SubjectAmerican power
GenreImmersive theatre

It Felt Like a Kiss is an immersive theatre production, first performed between 2 and 19 July 2009 as part of the second Manchester International Festival, co-produced with the BBC.[1] Themed on "how power really works in the world",[2] it is a collaboration between film-maker Adam Curtis and theatre company Punchdrunk, with original music composed by Damon Albarn and performed by the Kronos Quartet. The visitor is immersed in sets based on archive footage from Baghdad, 1963; New York City, 1964; Moscow, 1959; in the Amygdala, 1959–1969; and Kinshasa, 1960. The title is taken from The Crystals' 1962 song "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)", written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.[3]


The production was staged at Quay House, in the disused former offices of the National Probation Service on Quay Street, central Manchester. The production ran between 2 and 19 July 2009, as part of the second Manchester International Festival. It Felt Like A Kiss won Punchdrunk the Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for Best Special Entertainment.

Imagine walking into a disused building. You find yourself inside a film. It is a ghost story where unexpected forces, veiled by the American Dream, come out from the dark to haunt you…

— Manchester International Festival, [3]
An example of Curtis's use of typography in the film

The film and event makes extensive use of archive footage. Upon arrival at the event groups of nine[4] visitors are taken to a darkened sixth floor. The 54 minute film (available for a limited time online in the UK)[5] is only a small section ("the film club") of the event.[6]

Featured in the story are Eldridge Cleaver, Doris Day, Little Eva, Philip K Dick, Enos (a chimpanzee sent into space), Sidney Gottlieb, Rock Hudson, Saddam Hussein, Richard Nixon, Lee Harvey Oswald, Lou Reed, Mobutu Sese Seko, B F Skinner, Phil Spector, Tina Turner and Frank Wisner.

I wanted to do a film about what it actually felt like to live through that time ... Where you could see the roots of the uncertainties we feel today, the things they did out on the dark fringes of the world that they didn't really notice at the time, which would then come back to haunt us.

— Adam Curtis, [7]

Unlike Curtis' earlier work which prominently feature the Helvetica typeface, Arial is used for titling. Also, Curtis' trademark narration is absent.

Sound and Show Control equipment were supplied by Bradford-based The Stage Management Company (Uk) Ltd who have also collaborated with Punchdrunk on their Duchess of Malfi and Dr Who: Crash of the Elysium projects.


The production started life as an experimental film by Adam Curtis, commissioned by the BBC. Curtis approached Felix Barrett of the Punchdrunk theatre company, with the proposal that a production could be created "as though the audience were walking through the story of the film".[8]

The film was shown to Damon Albarn, already associated with the Manchester International Festival through the productions Demon Days Live in 2006 and Monkey: Journey to the West in 2007. He agreed to write a score for the production, which was then recorded by the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet.


According to Adam Curtis the production is "the story of an enchanted world that was built by American power as it became supreme...and how those living in that dream world responded to it".[8] He has also said; "it’s trying to show to you that the way you feel about yourself and the way you feel about the world today is a political product of the ideas of that time”.[9] According to Curtis:

"The politics of our time"..."are deeply embedded in the ideas of individualism...but it's not the be-all-and-end-all...the notion that you only achieve your true self if your dreams, your desires, are's a political idea."[7]

Felix Barrett has stated that the production was influenced by his love of ghost trains and haunted houses, and by the idea of blurring fiction with reality: "It takes the idea of the viewer as voyeur and asks at what point are you watching, inside or even starring in the film".[8]

The development of new techniques of interrogation by "everyone over Level 7" in the CIA during the 1960s is a theme of the production, and the suggestibility of human beings is something that the production seeks to highlight.[citation needed]


External links[edit]

  • "Video: Adam Curtis and Punchdrunk's It Felt Like a Kiss - Stage -". The Guardian. London. 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  • Price, Peter (2009-07-04). "BBC NEWS - Arts & Culture - Review: It Felt Like A Kiss". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  • "BBC - Adam Curtis blog post (including the film)". Retrieved 2013-01-05.


  1. ^ "BBC - Adam Curtis: It Felt Like a Kiss - trail". Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  2. ^ "BBC - Adam Curtis: Into the darkness". Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  3. ^ a b "It Felt Like a Kiss - Manchester International Festival". Archived from the original on April 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  4. ^ "BBC - Adam Curtis: The introduction to It Felt Like a Kiss". Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  5. ^ "BBC - Adam Curtis: It Felt Like a Kiss - The Film". Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  6. ^ Vallely, Paul (2009-07-03). "First Night: It Felt Like A Kiss, Manchester International Festival - Reviews, Films - The Independent". London. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  7. ^ a b "Charlie Brooker on Adam Curtis' new documentary experience, It Felt Like A Kiss - Culture - The Guardian". London. 2009-06-20. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  8. ^ a b c Curtis, Adam, It Felt Like a Kiss theatre programme, Manchester International Festival, 2009
  9. ^ "MIF: It Felt Like A Kiss - a spectacular festival coup - Manchester International Festival - Greater Manchester's CityLife". Archived from the original on July 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-06.