McQueen The Play – Theatre Royal Haymarket

★★★★★ 

By Caroline Hanks-Farmer

As we take to our seat we see an open stage where Stephen Wight (Lee) cuts an isolated and tortured figure,  pacing the stage, lost in his thoughts almost as if obsessive compulsive tendencies are playing havoc with his mind. This historic theatre is one of immense beauty, opulence, luxury and completely fitting to host this new piece written by James Phillips.

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What we are witness to is a sequence of events set over the time frame of just one night and a possible insight into the mind of British fashion design genius Lee “Alexander” McQueen. This is a dark and deep play concentrating on the suspected physiological frailty of a world-wide fashion phenomenon. The music playing in the background is guidance to what we are about to see with excerpts from Nirvana and other tortured souls. Stephen Wight bears an uncanny likeness to the person he is recreating on stage for us. However it is the acting of the characteristics, paranoia and the seemingly completely immersive portrayal which left me completely speechless and exhausted after the curtain fell. This can obviously be attributed to the tremendous acting skills of Wight along with direction by John Caird, and ultimately playwright James Phillips script writing. If you would like to know more on Phillips do check out the interview section of my website where you will be able to read a brief interview with him.

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Primarily the play takes place in one room in McQueen’s home, this darkly atmospheric think tank of a room is where the magic is created. We see Carly Bawden (Dahlia) supposedly having been living in a tree observing the house for eleven days, arrive uninvited searching for a dress to wear for a future intention. Bawden plays the role with quirky imagination, an awkwardness to engage and become muse for McQueen whilst ensuring she leaves having gained what she had come to collect. I was left wondering whether this was another creation by McQueen, a conduit to telling the story, or a reality and this again shows the level of complexity to this production. Bawden as the picture shows above brings beauty and strength to the role and demonstrates that she knows exactly what Dahlia wants or thinks she wants or does she?

Tracy-Ann Oberman  plays Isabella Blow influential fashion stylist, McQueen’s guide and confident who finally took her own life after many failed attempts. You would expect Oberman to play any feisty, defiant but physiologically flawed person well, but it has to be said as small as the role is, the impression felt of the importance of the influence in McQueen’s life was immense. There is also reference to McQueen’s mother, whose poor health and untimely death impacts on his mental instability and may have been the catalyst to his taking his own life just the day before her funeral.

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Choreographer Christopher Marney used his dancers to create the mannequins superbly. In fact such were the talents of Harry Alexander, Sophie Apollonia, Amber Doyle, George Hill, Eloise Hymas, Amelia Jackson, Rachel Louisa Maybank, Jessica Buckby, and Andrei Teodor Iliescu, that at times I must admit to not realising when they were real or not. Consequently I jumped when they then moved, particularly when being carried across the stage.

To summarise if you are looking for an intelligent, comprehensive, complex delve into a flawed genius’ mind with phenomenally outstanding acting, sublime choreography and staging, then this is the play for you to see. I felt totally wrung out mentally after watching it – the intensity, engagement and the angst was palpable and one I would encourage you not to miss out on experiencing.  

Runs until 7th November at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. 

McQueen The Play – Theatre Royal Haymarket

★★★★★

By Caroline Hanks-Farmer

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