Music review: (I Could Go On Singing) Over The Rainbow

FK Alexander sings Judy Garlands song to individual audience members to strong effect. Picture: Contributed

FK Alexander sings Judy Garlands song to individual audience members to strong effect. Picture: Contributed

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A disclaimer: this isn’t the kind of show everyone will adore. Listed in the Fringe programme under Music, it’s more a piece of performance art, an immersive and interactive happening which demands full acceptance and open-mindedness from the viewer/participant.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Summerhall (Venue 26)

One of two winners of this year’s Autopsy Award – which seeks to carry on the work and the spirit of Glasgow’s late Arches venue – (I Could Go On Singing) Over The Rainbow is a piece of theatre designed to confront and make complicit, and it’s hugely powerful when approached in the right frame of mind.

Informed before we enter the bare, darkened basement room that standing on the taped-off “x” in the centre of the floor will signal an individual’s desire to engage, we are faced with FK Alexander, the creator of the work. She’s flanked by the two members of noise band Okishima Island Tourist Association, their eyes shielded by sunglasses, the equipment before them spewing out a dark, pulsing throb of electronic noise music.

The first volunteer is greeted with a smile by Alexander, then she places on herself a sequinned jacket, high heels, a new layer of red lipstick. She takes the hand of her audience of one and begins to sing along with Judy Garland’s Over The Rainbow; a recording of the singer’s last public performance of the song before she died of a drug overdose at 47, her voice hopeful but recognisably weathered under the fog of noise.

For each willing audience member, Alexander repeats the process; every gesture, every warm smile, every slow tap on her heart. As a spectator, the experience is somewhere between intrigue and boredom. Once you’ve seen it done a few times, the appreciation is not for the way an artist performs, but the way they repeat the performance night after night, riding the same crests of emotion. Then you step up yourself, hand held and included, invited in by the fact eye contact is unbroken for the duration.

It’s a deeply vulnerable, humbling position to be in, to be regarded by another for so long. Tears, apparently, are not uncommon.

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