Assistant Producer Rob Jones on FK Alexander's (I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow
Assistant Producer Rob Jones, one of our Brighton Festival programming team, caught FK Alexander’s performance (I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow at Edinburgh Fringe last year, and says Brighton Festival audiences are in for a treat.
Firstly, wow. I Had no idea what to expect with this show as I had only heard through a friend that this was an artist not to be missed. I’d never come across FK Alexander, a Glasgow based performance artist, equally mysterious as she is prolific.
We were taken down to the basement in Summerhall where we received an admission ticket along with simple instruction on how the piece would work. We were led to a room where the FK stood centrally hands on hips staring straight ahead with a band behind her, poised and ready – there was also a massive X marked in the middle of the floor of the room. The piece begins when an audience member stands on the X.
I should also mention that there is a thick wall of sound as the enter the room which engulfs you, it feels like the cross between a drone and static white noise, it is loud but not abrasive and it puts you into an almost meditative state. It’s a loving sound. Once on the X, FK takes that audience member’s admission ticket and cues a recording of Judy Garland’s final performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow at Carnegie hall. This is the final recording of Garland singing this song.
FK then embarks on a routine where she dons costume items travels to the X to hold hands with the audience member and begins to sing the song in perfect unison with Judy’s vocals through this wall of static sound. What happens here is very unusual, the performance becomes part one-to-one and part to a wider audience. FK serenades the audience member never breaking gaze through the entire song, this ends with an intense strobe and drone and then the whole thing starts over with a new audience member taking their place on the X.
Something really tender and beautiful happens within this piece as time goes on; participants have different reactions to the serenade and the majority are deeply moved. You get this real sense of willing for things to be better and wanting things to change, the audience are allowed to move around so you can watch from the performer’s and the audience member’s perspective. There’s also something terribly sad within the context of the song which has so much history and followed Judy Garland throughout her entire life, at first it feels hopeful blissful and romantic and then with further examination it feels like a haunting, cyclical elegy for the role of the artist. This is an extremely powerful piece of performance which works on many different levels for audience members all powerfully driven by FK’s resilience.
This festival FK Alexander will be bringing her haunting powerful performance to the Spire to share with the people of Brighton. This is unlike anything we have had at Brighton Festival before and is something that I would urge everyone to experience as it really is something special – words don’t do it justice, it creates an incredible feeling of closeness, wonder and sadness combined. Everyone can get something from this and should.
(I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow is at The Spire 26-28 May