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30th April 2024

The Exorcism of Susan Fox – Recovering a lost soul: LIVE

Fox releases her new book, ‘The Exorcism of Susan Fox’, with an unforgettable evening of live performance combining poetry, film and an exorcism
The Exorcism of Susan Fox – Recovering a lost soul: LIVE
Photo: Anna Marsden @ The Mancunion

“My body is precious as f**k”, Sue Fox declares ardently as she reads from her recently published wonderland of a book: The Exorcism of Susan FoxExorcism is an analysis of her fascinating and enchanting journey with myofascial trauma-release therapy. She is on stage in the International Anthony Burgess Centre on a humid April evening for the book’s launch, in a room that feels not unlike a church. The walls are adorned with crucifixes, and the guests are like her congregation, we sit in rows and look up as she preaches, waiting, with bated breath, for the exorcism of Susan Fox.

When I interviewed Fox for The Mancunion back in November, she told me all about her myofascial therapy and the book she was writing, and now I’m here, at the launch of the very book that hasn’t left my mind for five months. In the entry hall are copies, the cover is a striking portrait of a young Fox with a piercing gaze and spiky, punky hair. The inside is a fascinating exploration of her mind, body and trauma release, themes which we explore throughout the evening, which is a ritual in itself.

Photo: Anna Marsden @ The Mancunion

Fox’s friends, family, colleagues and students settle in for an evening of acts that begin hauntingly, all thematic precursors to the main event. To begin, she shows a hypnotising film piece by artist Kiara, which summons an atmosphere that is almost tribal in its ceremony. Donned in a black cloak, they urge us to open up to the monsters inside and be vulnerable in order to heal. “ARE YOU HERE?”, they shout, as we collectively close our eyes and try to welcome in our monsters.

Next up is a uniquely maniacal reading by author Simon Strong, his first since 1995 in the UK. He is, simply put, brilliant. With an expressive nose in between two fanatical eyes, Strong’s silver hair catches the light as he performs his extremely eccentric stories followed by a haunting ditty about a daisy chain, his warbling tones bouncing from the bricks. “I’ve never done this before except for in the shower!”

Photo: Anna Marsden @ The Mancunion

OORYA follows – with an emotive and enticing electronic/punk folk act that has deep queer roots, and an extraordinary way of creating music that is both humorous and tickles the ears. Unbelievable voice control and lyrics make for a performance that feels at once timeless and nostalgic. OORYA is astounding, their stage presence brings together elements of folklore, Bjork, and their very own soul of the most Northern variety, the perfect precursor to Fox’s night.

Before the woman of the hour has her moment, we are witness to a wonderful short film by Dave Mitchell, the publisher of Fox’s book, and a scintillating spoken word performance of the male queer experience by Gerry Potter. Poems filled with humour, heart-wrenching truths and anti-establishment verse are the penultimate act.

With a cheer, it is time for The Exorcism of Susan Fox. On stage, she goes, complete with fishnet stockings, a long brown wig, a black mini dress, and completely engulfed in jewellery. Her voice grips the room, and a hushed, devout silence falls. She begins to read fascinating extracts from her book, passages rich with recordings of dreams, memories of the flesh, the changes in her body, trauma responses, and how sexuality and physicality connect to our mentality. She has been exploring the methods of myofascial therapy since 2020’s lockdown with expert Ray Haq and together they have been working towards a catharsis which she says sometimes felt like “dark matter” in her very being.

“Everything wants to penetrate everything,” she says, then pauses to look up at us, letting that sink in. We are lost in her wonderworld, under her gaze as she speaks of her heart, how she held onto it and how it held onto her right back. From spine-chilling descriptions of burning hot tar running through her veins to beautifully illustrated sensations of floating, Fox’s new book sounds as though it contains multitudes, it is a journey of self-discovery by exploring the body, and the past, recovering a lost soul in the process.

The exorcism is about to begin.

On the big screen, a video starts playing. It is Fox, upside down. She is on a bed, naked, her face and neck being pushed, stretched, unfolded, distended and squashed, all in fast motion. We are watching time lapses of her treatment, watching as her eyes and cheek seem to merge, we see the pain in her jaw and clavicle. Her winces last a millisecond before her forehead becomes misshapen again, Haq’s hands blur as they rub her neck up into her chin. These recorded sessions are then interspersed with creepy videos in a way that makes me feel as though I am falling down a fever dream-like rabbit hole. Sue Fox is the white rabbit with the pocket watch, beckoning us to follow her.

She clambers onto a gurney-style bed under the screen and slips under a red velvet blanket until we can no longer see her. Then, she begins to writhe, contorting under the cover, her limbs twisting, distorting and warping somewhere we cannot see. We can only use our imaginations. As she continues to buckle and gnarl, the videos are still showing the myofascial therapy – you can almost see the trauma trickling from each pore-like bubbling tar. She truly looks like she is being exorcised, her whole being is bucking on screen in reaction to Haq’s hands. It all crescendos, the real Fox under the blanket is kicking and writhing more than ever, each limb is tearing about as on screen, the naked Sue looks as though she is creating a bloodcurdling scream, but it is silent for us.

The screen changes. We are now watching some kind of field blowing in the breeze, bathed in a soft golden light. Has the exorcism worked? Are we in a state of peace? From under the blood-red shroud, I can see the rise and fall of her chest. No one has ever breathed so deeply. This continues for a long while, I can’t help breathing in sync. I think the man next to me is also breathing in time. It feels cultish.

When Sue finally emerges from under, she looks proud, all-knowing and peaceful, grinning from ear to ear. I have no idea how long the exorcism lasted, but I know it was a while, highlighting what a time-consuming process myofascial therapy is. It takes a while to see results and a long, long time to nurture such a gruelling and traumatic exercise.

The exorcism is complete.

In true Sue Fox fashion, we get a cheeky flash of her underwear as she clambers down and fervently thanks everyone with a sincere smile that reaches all the way up to her darkly made-up eyes. A queue forms of friends, family and ex-students, each with a copy of Fox’s book in one hand and a pen in the other, waiting to get the first page signed. Gracious, excitable and always electrified, Fox is lost among a sea of hugs and compliments of the highest order. She seems enlivened, exhilarated and stirred by the amount of support and enthusiasm present this evening for such a kooky and fantastic line-up of creatives.

The Exorcism of Susan Fox was an evening unlike any other, it showed me that healing is about acceptance – of the body, of the mind, of the past, the present and all that will come to us. Sue Fox is a woman who treats her mind and her body with the utmost respect and love. She listens to her muscles, her bones, and her very core and this night was a learning experience. An exorcism is not a scary thing, it is an evocation of the flesh, a reminder that change is not to be feared and our traumas can be expelled from our fibres, teaching us about ourselves in the process. Sue Fox taught me about myself that night, and if she teaches you anything at all, it should simply be to remind yourself, daily, that your body is “precious as f**k.”

Anna Marsden

Anna Marsden

Anna spends her time as a student photographer, mostly reading and drinking sparkling water.

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