by James Phillips.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Street SW1E 5JA To 27 June 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: Carole Woddis 21 May 2015.
Mystery unfolds with plenty of stylish swagger.
Alexander McQueen, enfant terrible and one of the most revered fashion designers of his generation, committed suicide on 11 February 2010. Currently, the V&A is holding a voluptuous retrospective of his work. Simultaneously, we have McQueen, the play, running at St James Theatre.
How do you capture such a unique spirit, whose fashion collections variously shocked and delighted with their theatrical bravado and brilliance?
Director John Caird (Trevor Nunn’s one-time collaborator on Les Miserables and Nicholas Nickelby) brings a zappy surrealism to James Phillips’ bio-drama, which attempts a portrait through a complicated conjuration of a waif-like McQueen fan, Dahlia, and brief interludes with selected characters from his life: namely the head-cutter from his first Savile Row tailoring job, Mr Hitchcock, a magazine interviewer and Isabella Blow, style icon in her own right, friend and mentor who also committed suicide.
Caird’s production, like many these days, includes movement plus music used by McQueen in his Collections. His use of mannequin models played by dancers whose classical training in ballet lends them a strange, robotic quality is particularly effective echoing as it does the fashion world and its catwalks. Unfortunately on the smallish St James’ stage, Christopher Marney’s accompanying choreography looks merely cramped whilst Phillips’ script of biographical detail, philosophical musings and McQueen and Dahlia’s `relationship’ produces a sometimes clunky narrative.
At its centre, however, is Stephen Wight’s McQueen. Bullet-headed, with small goatee beard constantly stroked, Wight creates a compulsive portrait of Lee, the complex, tortured Lewisham boy-made-good who became Givenchy’s head designer, British Designer of the Year, with his own branded company, Alexander McQueen.
What motivated him? What drove him? Phillips seeks to find explanations in McQueen’s search for beauty as an integral part of individual identity, his conversations with Dahlia and others a means of untangling that disturbed but talented psyche. On the whole, Phillips succeeds only lapsing into cliché as McQueen hurtles towards his fated end.
Wight, it is though, who carries the show. For those visiting the V&A, it will offer too an extra insight into the mystery and beauty that was McQueen, the designer and the man.
Lee: Stephen Wight.
Dahlia: Dianna Agron.
Isabella: Tracy-Ann Oberman.
Arabella: Laura Rees.
Mr Hitchcock: David Shaw-Parker.
Twin/Dancer: Eloise Hymas.
Twin/Swing: Carrie Wills.
Dance Captain: Amber Doyle.
Dancers: Sophia Apollonia, George Hill, Eloise Hymas, Jordan Kennedy, Rachel Louisa Maybank.
Swing Ensemble Dancer: James Revell
Director: John Caird.
Designer: David Farley.
Lighting: David Howe.
Sound: John Leonard.
Video: Timothy Bird.
Choreographer: Christopher Marney.
Wigs: Linda McKnight.
Assistant director: Emma Baggott.
First performance of McQueen at St James Theatre London 12 May 2015.