It’s a strange and unsettling thing being stood stock-still for a few minutes, gazing into a stranger’s eyes. It’s supposed to be an encounter marked by intimacy, but how close can you get when you’ve bought a ticket and when the stranger across from you shares the same moment every night, with tens of different people? I’m not sure.
This is a unique, powerful performance. See it.
You stand on a cross, you hand over your ticket and FK Alexander takes it and puts it in her bra, over her heart. She gives you a smile that might be a snarl. She gets dressed up – heels, make-up, sparkly jacket – takes you by the hand and sings to you. You might have heard about this part. Alexander sings along with Over the Rainbow, a recording Judy Garland made just months before her death, and – truly – it’s astonishing.
There are years of heart and loss behind Garland’s words in the song. Her voice quavers, the volume peaks and troughs and she struggles to a difficult climax. Here, the room is dark and filled with the noise of static, booming drums like thunder and screeching, wailing bird calls. The track plays through this horrid background clamour, and it’s unclear if the music is rising out of or falling back into it.
Alexander sings the song over and over, each performance the same, with the same rituals observed. By the end of an hour we’re all closely familiar with the song. She only sings to one person at a time; when you aren’t on the cross, you sit or stand around the room, simply watching. It’s a mesmeric effect – you watch the same routine repeat itself, you look at the faces of those around you and you wonder what they’re thinking. I’m sure everyone takes something different with them away from this show; I felt almost embarrassed at having seen into Alexander’s routine; a friend felt comforted to be taken by the hand.
At one point in the song Alexander winked at me. She winks at everyone but it felt just then like it was only for me, and there was no one else in the room. You can know what she is about to do; it feels different having it done to you.
Judy Garland was beaten down by life and this song is mainly what we have to remember her by. She’s given defiant new life for a few moments here, and ultimately Alexander’s feels like an act of kindness. This is a unique, powerful performance. See it.