Elton goes to lengths to examine Twiggy’s humble upbringing – stressing too frequently how unlikely it was for a working-class girl from Neasden to become a model at that time – but struggles to portray the glamour and excitement of the world she was catapulted into overnight.
Its opening number, the Darby Slick-penned Somebody to Love, is a fitting choice: in 16-year-old Twiggy, the nation found their somebody to love when a headshot published in a tabloid newspaper made the schoolgirl the face of 1966.
Elena Skye (Twiggy). Photo: Manuel Harlan
Elena Skye plays Twiggy with gentle relatability. Breaking the fourth wall, she narrates her own story, slinking through her past like an unseen spectre.
A little too much time is spent in the home where Twiggy grew up. Seeing her forge her image at a young age, drawing on her signature dramatic eyelashes and custom-fitting dresses to her friends’ varying body shapes, is an interesting part of her story. But why her parents (Steven Serlin and Hannah-Jane Fox, with self-deprecating charm) get so many of the show's numbers, contributing to its overly long run time, is a mystery. Serlin and Fox are lumbered with the musical's most crass moments, too: Serlin's Nornman gets a clumsily choreographed song about changing baby Lesley’s nappy, while Fox's Nell sings through her electroconvulsive therapy. Both moments will make you wince.
Later, when a 15-year-old Twiggy is picked up by the 25-year-old charlatan Justin de Villeneuve, her parents wave her off with a couple of verses of Bobby Vee’s Take Good Care of My Baby and an oh-well-it-was-the-60s shrug.
Cast of Close Up – The Twiggy Musical. Photo: Manuel Harlan
The play picks up pace in the second half, where the focus swings between a now world-famous Twiggy’s unhealthy relationship with the actor Michael Witney and her successful forays into acting. Diana Estrada Hudson’s wigs do a decent job of carrying the star through the eras, but Jonathan Lipman’s costumes, while modelled on the right decades, don’t do justice to a show about one of fashion's most promanent figures.
The story travels from the 60s through to the 80s, with Tim Blazdell’s video design fleshing out details along the way. Archive interviews of the real Twiggy are used sparingly to back up some of the show’s hardest-to-fathom moments, like when a patronising Woody Allen quizzes the model on philosophers – a trick that backfires deliciously.
Fitting an eventful life into a sub-three-hour run-time is a big ask, especially when so much of that time is taken up by pre-existing songs. Here, a slapdash final scene and upbeat closing number provide the lacklustre finale to a show that hones in on its subject’s major milestones but fails to show us the woman behind the photo.
|What||Close-Up: The Twiggy Musical, Menier Chocolate Factory review|
|Where||Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark St, London , SE1 1RU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Bridge (underground)|
18 Sep 23 – 18 Nov 23, 7:30 PM – 10:15 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|