IMAGINE someone singing Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow to you while holding your hand and staring straight into your eyes. Oh, and there’s a noise-rock band playing at the same time. Sounds uncomfortable, right?

Maybe, but Scottish performance artist FK Alexander, who is bringing this vision to life at the Brighton Festival, says the experience has far more to it than just “visceral intensity. In a way it is a loving, emotional confrontation, to be that close to somebody. You wouldn’t hold someone’s gaze like that unless you were in love with them or they were your child.”

Alexander’s performance begins as soon as an audience member steps on a large X on the floor of the venue. From that point, Alexander takes them by the hand and commences a duet with Garland, or a recording of her last ever live show just four months before her death. A life-long Garland obsessive, Alexander immersed herself in the world of the American singer and actor while writing the show, including her struggles with addiction.

“She’s been my spirit animal for a long time. Seeing photographs of her around the time of that last performance... she was so small, she was dying. She’d had decades of triumph and tragedy, highs and lows. She’s a spokesperson for people who are struggling but struggling beautifully and magnificently.” Alexander claims that context isn’t important in her show. You don’t need to know about Garland’s life because “ultimately it’s me up there performing”.

Past reviews have remarked upon the odd dualism of (I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow. While Alexander and the audience members are locked in close contact, there’s also a degree of distance. Alexander frequently changes costume (in different incarnations of a “futuristic” Judy Garland). What is the intention behind merging the intimate and distant in this way?

“I try not to have intentions with the work because everyone brings their entire life to every performance they see. I’ve had people say to me ‘I really wanted to do the song but I was afraid it would be too intense’. It can be disorientating, for sure.” Alexander’s theory about the audience’s past experience affecting their view of the performance is relevant to her, too. Having worked as a Samaritan for seven years, she is comfortable with that one-on-one experience with people (albeit for dramatically different situations).

She says: “A lot of my process for living is a meditative practice – I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink, I’m a lot calmer than most of my work might suggest”. To this end she feels that noise-rock, when done right, can be a form of Zen, especially in the age of immediate information. The Okishima Island Tourist Association are on hand to provide an unlikely soothing backdrop to Alexander’s routine; they make a “loving sound”, as one review puts it.

“When I first heard noise-rock it had the same impact on me as the first time I meditated,” she says. While (I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow is undoubtedly intense and potentially unnerving, Alexander ultimately believes it is less oppressive than conventional theatre.

“How many people sit down in the theatre at 7pm and think ‘I hate this, I want to leave’? That’s really oppressive. If people want to leave my show, that’s fine.” Not that many of Alexander’s audience members have had the inclination to exit so far.

“When I first did this show I thought people would love it or hate it,” she says. “Actually, most love it.”

(I Could Go On Singing) Over the Rainbow, The Spire, Eastern Road, May 26 to 28, Friday, May 26: 6pm, Saturday, 27 and Sunday, 28: 2pm