Thursday, 25 June 2015

Review: McQueen at St. James Theatre

I was somewhat surprised that, despite being the fastest-selling play in the history of the St. James Theatre, no one in my immediate social circles could summon sufficient enthusiasm to check out this off-the-wall Alexander McQueen bio-drama, inspired by his AW '08 "The Girl Who Lived in the Tree" collection - the actors left cold at the prospect of sitting through a 100-minute play about fashion, and the fashionistas preferring to stick with the real McCoy/Queen. But, as an emerging stylist and actress, catching this was an absolute must for me...

Review: McQueen at St. James Theatre
McQueen and his mannequins

...And then it opened with one of the best dance/physical theatre-based movement sequences I've seen on stage, as McQueen's mannequins sprang to "life" to the sounds of Vitamin String Quartet's tribute to Nirvana's "Come As You Are" (soundtrack to the aforementioned runway show) - yet two more of my "Favourite Things" checkboxes ticked! Overall? Despite its relatively poor critical reviews, which I read with some surprise on returning home, I loved it. Dianna Agron? Yes, she was a little wooden, a little monotonous and a little less than sparkling, but I've seen far worse performances lauded by the critics, so are her poor reviews partly inspired by a teensy bit of a "let's bash the American TV actress" mentality? And - give the girl a break - her fairly decent performance couldn't help but appear a little lacklustre in the shadow of Stephen Wight's uncanny portrayal of our eponymous hero, which remained utterly and consistently believable as the production spiralled ever deeper into the realms of the (wonderfully) surreal, backed up by a brilliant supporting cast.

McQueen at St James theatre, London
Stephen Wight as Lee McQueen with Dianna Agron as Dahlia

Dismissed as "self indulgent navel gazing" by other commenters, I rather found James Phillips' dialogue to be incisive and insightful, not only clearing a window onto Lee McQueen's personal psychological landscape, but interweaving with set design and choreography to paint a thought-provoking portrait of the "tormented creative soul" and human tendency to depression and despair more generally, which I don't believe could help but captivate and intrigue anyone, regardless of interest in McQueen specifically, or even in fashion more generally (an opinion backed up by my mum, who couldn't pick a McQueen frock out of a line-up... or a pile of feathers).

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Stephen Wight as Lee McQueen with Tracy-Ann Oberman as Isabella Blow

If you're quick, there's still just about time to make your own mind up, as there are still a few seats left for the last two performances, on Friday and Saturday... (And, if you're still on the fence, the St. James bar makes some of the most delicious cocktails on the planet... even if they did get our order wrong and serve us Raspberry Gin Fizzes instead of Savage Beauties this time - tsk - although the upgrade from back row to premium seating somewhat made up for it.)

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