I Could Go On Singing At Southbank Centre: Review

I Could Go On Singing, Southbank Centre, ★★★☆☆

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I Could Go On Singing At Southbank Centre: Review I Could Go On Singing, Southbank Centre, 3
Photo: Jannica Honey

DH Lawrence said that it was “better (to) die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions”.

It sounds a little melodramatic but he may have had a point when it comes to FK Alexander’s Judy Garland-inspired performance art work, I Could Go On Singing, a very personal musical experience based on Garland's final performance of Over The Rainbow.

This isn’t the first show I’ve seen at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room but it is definitely the first where the audience joins the artist on the stage via the backstage entrance. The backing band are a pair of Glasgow noiseniks going by the moniker of Okishima Island Tourist Association; their DJ decks sit aloft a huge platform which monopolises the otherwise empty seating area.

Using the backing music from Garland’s last ever performance of Over The Rainbow, accompanied by strobe lighting and stylised white noise care of her backing band, FK Alexander adjusts her clothing and sings the song ten times over the course of the hour-long show while holding the hand and looking into the eyes of ten different people.

That lucky double-handful get to experience a one-on-one experience which, from an onlooker’s perspective, seems both serious and sensuous despite the shallow nature of the song. Then again, from an onlooker’s perspective, the hour noticeably drags after the first few go-arounds as the only difference each time centres on which audience member is being sung to: there are only so many ways to passively critique their choice of clothing, stance and expression.

The show, both concept and performance, revolve around FK Alexander and I often felt like a distant outer planet which revolved around her every six minutes. I Could Go On Singing seems to owe more to songbook cabaret and Marina Abramović than Judy Garland and, while the central idea is a fun one, for this observer, both concept and performance outlived their shine long before the show ended. DH Lawrence opined that it was “better (to) die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions”; it sounds a little melodramatic but he may have had a point.

I Could Go On Singing, Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road. SE1 8XX. Tickets £15, until 26 February 2020. I Could Go On Singing is part of the Southbank Centre’s Something to Aim For’s first season, Art in Action.

Last Updated 25 February 2020