Over the Rainbow

The Warhol Gallery at the Whitworth is just a wall of sound, amorphous and hard to discern.  There is an X on the floor in front of the set; when it is vacant you walk up and hand in your ‘admit one’ ticket.  FK Alexander prepares to one side, puts on her red shoes, her sequin jacket, her lipstick.  She walks over and holds your hand, lifts the microphone into the air and holds it for what feels like a very long time as you lock eyes for the next three minutes.

This is a durational performance over three hours, where FK Alexander repeatedly sings Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’.  Each performance is the same, the same wink, the same movement of her hand to her heart, and yet slightly different.  The performer seems to react in subtly different ways to each person to whom she sings.  Increasingly you identify the tiny changes.  You start to hear repeating motifs in the background music.  It’s mesmerising.

This is a performance that sits half way between hope and despair.  It’s full of paradoxes.  You stand arm’s length apart, and yet there’s a distance, heightened by hearing the singer’s words coming from a far away speaker.  You’re aware of the intense background noise and yet as she sings, FK Alexander’s words feel like the only sounds in the room.  The noise creates a numbness that the words try to counter.  When she sings Why then, oh why can’t I? you feel her hope and pain, see the furrowing of her brow, and yet know that she will continue to sing the same song to many more people.

As I walk around after I see several people with lipstick kisses on their cheeks, which the performer gives at the end of the song. The one to one part of the performance is powerful, but what stands out is the effect of the repetition.  It’s the way you isolate the small things from the big picture.  Is there hope within the tiny differences between each performance?

Performed as part of Queer Contact 2017.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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