The Long Lens blog: Photography with added snaps, art and culture

The photography site for sore eyes. Featuring: Art, photography, performance and theatre. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.

ADVISORY: Performances contain graphic content and nudity (FK vs. KT and STRANGE LOOP)

When I’m trying to explain to people why I like live art performance, or why they should try it, I usually refer to Frances Kay whose show Sorry – the one where I had to leave the room because I felt like I was going to faint because the hypnotic music mixed with repetitive actions made me feel all woozy. And that was before the razor blades came out.

But it’s this kind of experience, all-encompassing, unforgettable, thrilling and socially critical, which make contemporary performance so damn good. Kay is back with a new show – FK vs. KT – performed as a double bill with Jim Burrows doing Strange Loop.

These two shows are new. One is by Jim Burrows, the other by Frances Kay. I saw both shows as a work-in-progress in Huddersfield in the summer. I was asked to write about both pieces of work. So, this is a kind of preview of both shows, along with all the information you need:

[Double bill performance this Tuesday, October 24, 2017, at The Arts Centre, Ormskirk.  Tickets £10/£8 conc/FREE for Arts Centre Student Members. Use this link for more info and to buy tickets]

Strange Loop
By Garry Cook
Sept 15, 2017



There are certain moments in pop culture which have a profound effect on their audiences, yet are almost exclusive to a chosen few. Pop star Gary Numan and his late Seventies, early Eighties synth-wave visuals are one of those cultural cults, where those affected get a shiver down their spine every time they see two red stripes on a black background.

Jim Burrows harnesses this visual aesthetic and turns it into a full-on multi-media thrust of sound, sinister cinema, drag and movement to produce Strange Loop, a queer cabaret which brutally criticises representation of sexuality.

Burrows’ cross platform piece garners techniques from several disciplines to produce live art entertainment where the audience is unable to sit comfortably.


The visually stunning projection-based retro opening expands into a multi-sensory assault, pushing the audience’s feelings between extremes of sympathy and disgust, wrapping it all up in a conical hat and Tudor ruff of post-modern irony.

Strange Loop is an exorcism of individual identity from a sanitised stream of commercial culture. Its rawness acts as a reminder of the realities faced by one person living with their own identity. This is perhaps most poignantly portrayed during the Shirley Bassey lip-synching sequence where the beautiful soundtrack is contrasted with the performer disrobing into a sexual-silk chemise.

The abstract satirical references and comical sequences of sexuality and desexualisation barely hide a melancholy backdrop of discomfort, both for the performer and audience.

As a self-confessional, Strange Loop offers painful insight into the complexities of human identity. As a performance it captivates its audience through beautiful audio and visuals, forcing those watching to examine their own feelings in relation to self-identity. Which is precisely what great live-art theatre should do.


By Garry Cook
Sept 15, 2017


The political landscape is the body, the body is Brexit. The feminine body has been used for multitude of sins, but never to slice open the most divisive event in British political history.

FK v KT is a physical performance where the artist dissects the relationship between her performance persona and her real self. France Kay (the artist’s performance name) unravels the uncomfortable relationship she has with her shyer, less provocative self Katie Harling. At the same time, Kay relates the uncomfortable partnership to the equally confusing issue of what Brexit means to the British people.

Like Kay’s previous work, the artist’s own body is a metaphor for the provocation of social issues, this time exploring themes of patriotism, division and personal conflict.

Political performance is at its strongest when it is able to relate itself to the emotional feelings of an individual and this is precisely what Kay does, discussing the emotional pull between two characters (Harling and her alter-ego) and the pain which can be caused by one polarising decision.

If ever fear and self-loathing, usually the exclusive domain of one person’s own mind, could be applied to an entire society it would be through the uncertainty of Brexit and what it means to a nation. This is why Kay’s hugely intimate performance resonates with audiences. Its wide appeal – to Britons and Europeans – is made personal through her own exposure both mentally and physically.

This visual work focuses on the artists own body, incorporating projections, body art, movement and drag performance, plus two of the artist’s major strengths: durational repetition and physical pain.

Unusually for Kay, the theme of discomfort with personal circumstance sees the artist employ spoken word in the performance where previously her silence has been a cornerstone to her performances. The verbal section is one of the highlights of FK v KT.

FK v KT offers audiences an experience of close-up intensity rarely seen in relation to political subjects. The subtle sexualisation of Brexit is enthralling, as are the wider issues discussed in the work.




Photographer: Brett Fawkes

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This entry was posted on October 22, 2017 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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