It's been fIve years since the tragic suicide of fashion designer Alexander McQueen and the arts world has ensured that he is not forgotten -- in fact it's McQueen mania, with four exhibitions, that span his early years and the most significant final shows, and even the specifics of McQueen's catwalk show cosmetics.
Alexander McQueen play: London 2015
It is the sheer theatricality of McQueen's designs that are boundary-breaking, as he transformed the human silhouette through headdresses and posture-altering armadillo shoes. So it is fitting that his legacy has now inspired a brand new stage show.
Rather than tell the narrative of Alexander McQueen’s life, playwright James Phillips delves into the dark interior landscape of Alexander McQueen, resurrecting his imagination and the personal daemons that eventually led to McQueen’s suicide in 2010.
The play takes place over the course of one night, in which McQueen (Stephen Wight) has dream-like encounters with journalists, his old boss from the Savile Row tailors and his close friend and style guru Isabella Blow, the woman who plucked him from obscurity and helped him become a star, before taking own life only three years before McQueen.
Throughout the play, McQueen is accompanied by an obsessed fan called Dahlia, who spends eleven days watching him from up a tree before breaking into his home looking for a dress. The odd couple are united in their unhappiness and as the surreal night-time adventure progresses, they tease out the sadness inside one another until eventually (and ironically) McQueen has to talk Dahlia out of committing suicide. The evening is based on one of McQueen’s collections, The Girl who lived in a Tree for which he imagined a waif coming out of a tree in his back garden and being transformed into a princess. Instead of magic, in this fairy tale McQueen produces beautiful clothes to try to transform his unhappy charge. Fashion fans will recognise the McQueen golden-feather coat that makes an appearance, although most of the clothes on set by designer David Farley are inspired by, rather than recreations of, McQueen’s clothes.
McQueen St James' Theatre: review
McQueen is presented as a genius, with all the super powers of BBC1’s Sherlock Holmes. He can read the history of a person’s life with a single glance, and is apparently so brilliant no one one stage ever understands what he means and must ask him to repeat - again and again - ideas that the audience grasped the first time.
The play is best enjoyed by those who don’t know very much about the designer, as revelations about McQueen, such as when he claimed to have stitched expletives into the lining of Prince Charles’ jacket, are mostly well known. The best moments are when McQueen is in conversation with real characters from his past or talking about the love of his mother, rather than worrying about Dianna Agron’s fictional character, who, despite being chalked up as a reflection of McQueen’s darker self, doesn’t do very much to explore the designer's motivations and, thanks in equal measure to flat writing and a disappointing performance from Agron, feels as hollow as a dressmaker's dummy.
When McQueen transfers to West End this autumn, Dianna Agron's role of Dahlia will be played by Carly Bawden. It means a loss of star power, but hopefully a fresh take could breath life into the role.
Stephen Wight as McQueen review
Taking the title role of McQueen is actor Stephen Wight, the best part of the play, who does a good job at embodying the complexities of McQueen. Since bagging the Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Newcomer in 2007, Wight has a been a regular on both stage and screen, with roles spanning Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art (National Theatre, 2010) BBC dramas Sherlock and Fingersmith.
|What||McQueen, Theatre Royal Haymarket|
|Where||Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street, London, SW1Y 4HT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
22 Aug 15 – 17 Oct 15, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£24 - £65|
|Website||Click here to book via Theatre Royal Haymarket|