FK Alexander: (I Could Go On Singing) Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I’ve been sung to by FK Alexander! I waited until she had taken off her black sequinned cabaret singer jacket, and her harness, and her not-silver (as in the original Wizard of Oz book), not-ruby red (as in the Judy Garland film) but sparkly coppery-gold shoes. I stood on the black cross on the floor and she noticed me and smiled and walked over to me, took my handwritten ‘admit one’ ticket, then went back and took a sip of water, put her harness and jacket back on again, re-applied her lipstick, and put the lovely shoes back on her feet. Ready.

She takes up her microphone, walks over, and stands in front of me. She smiles another, bigger, smile, takes my right hand in her left hand (her hand down, my hand up: the giver and receiver). She raises her right hand, holding the mic up high as the wonderfully intense and rich wash of industrial/sampled/layered sounds starts to crack and break into fragments of Over the Rainbow.

And then she sings to me: ‘Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I’ve heard of, once in a lullaby.’ All the other people in the room can see and hear this too, but she is singing to me. I sing back. Later, as I watch other people come forward enthusiastically, or fidget in their seats wondering if they’ll have the courage before jumping up hurriedly before someone else does, I enjoy noticing who stands very still and listens, allowing themselves to be washed over with the sounds and the experience, and who sings back to her or with her.

An hour passes very quickly. Perhaps nine or ten people are sung to directly? There is no allocated slot – you just take the space if you want to. The duration of the show is one hour, and when that hour is up, she stops, it stops.

She’s supported onstage by two other performers, musicians from Glasgow noise band Okishima Island Tourist Association – a man and a woman, both in black, wearing shades, standing perfectly straight and still behind their (music making) stations.

Oh and Judy Garland is here too, in a manner of speaking. Her voice is here in the mix, and her spirit is conjured. A deranged, distorted spirit, a ghost in the machine of sound; a spirit using the vessel of FK Alexander to stand in the spotlight once again. Or at least, to bask in the strobe flashes that are the climax of each one-to-one performance.

FK Alexander’s performance presence throughout is immense – beautifully held, controlled and in charge, loving and giving. The actions of donning and removing the ‘costume’ and the stance with the microphone, acknowledge the performance rituals and mores of the heavenly host of legendary divas and pop stars that are here with us, somehow. They also remind us of the power of ritual, on stage and in life. We all have our lucky jacket; our favourites shoes; our need to do things in the right order each time.

Alexander, who I’d previously seen and admired at SPILL Festival (London, 2015) is one of a number of contemporary performance artists working in the space between and around music and art. At that previous show, I’d seen her walk across hot coals accompanied by an intense barrage of sound so deep and strong that it penetrated to the bowels (as my friend and former colleague Genesis P Orridge might have put it). As a veteran of the Throbbing Gristle/Industrial Music scene, I feel that FK Alexander, and her collaborators on this show, are carrying the torch for the artistic intentions laid down in the 1970s that are sometimes referred to as ‘punk’ or ‘post punk’ or ‘industrial music’.

Yet the show is also, of course, her own thing. This is now, and she is out there.

This is an intense, vibrant, beautiful piece of performance art – delightfully different to most other work you are likely to see at the Edinburgh Fringe.



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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.