"Visually striking"

Sorry, McQueen closed on 07 Nov 2015

Give us your email and we will tell you when it opens.

Don't worry we NEVER share your e-mail address and you can unsubscribe at any time.

A dark, sensitively drawn portrait of creative genius

Critic Rating

25 August 2015, Theatre Royal Haymarket
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
Fans of iconic British fashion designer Alexander McQueen have been well served this year with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s retrospective ‘Savage Beauty’ breaking attendance records and the St James Theatre hosting James Phillips’ bio-drama McQueen. The commercial success of that run has seen the play now transfer into the West End, to the grander surroundings of the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

The play has been rejigged a little for this new venue. Some sequences extended, new scenes inserted and an interval introduced and Glee’s Dianna Agron has been replaced by Carly Bawden as the mysterious Dahlia, a young woman who intrudes on a dark night of the soul for Stephen Wight’s McQueen. She wants a dress, he wants company and they’re both harbouring dark, even suicidal, thoughts and so they’re ideal company for each other on this personal odyssey.

The metaphysical journey that Phillips takes us on traces a route through McQueen’s psyche and is constantly haunted by statuesque dancers posing as mannequins and models in a number of dance interludes that recall some of his tamer catwalk shows. From the tailors where he learned his craft to an interview where he’s forced to defend his work against charges of misogyny and vacuousness, we learn a little more about the man and even more spills forth at his mother’s house.

But there’s also something a little trite about the way in which the writing skates superficially over some of the sharper edges of his life. McQueen’s problematic relationship with troubled benefactor Isabella Blow is fudged whereas it could, and should, have a lot more to say about betrayal and depression and suicide. And the almost hallucinatory nature of John Caird’s production, vividly realised by Timothy Bird’s video work allows the mind to focus on the imaginative rather than the intellectual aspects.

Still, Wight’s performance – looking eerily, uncannily, like the man himself – is a dark, sensitively drawn portrait of creative genius marred by mental distress and he pairs very effectively with Bawden’s sparky Dahlia, a much greater sense of duality in their partnership emerges here than in the original production. Laura Rees’ journalist is a striking cameo and one wishes there was more of Michael Bertenshaw’s avuncular charm as his tailoring mentor but all in all, McQueen’s second coming works well.

Reviewed by Ian Foster

John Caird's production is visually striking, as it should be given that this is a show about one of, if not the greatest, designer of their generation, and makes attractive, if not particularly original, use of projections (courtesy of the always brilliant Timothy Bird). The gilt of the Haymarket proscenium arch feels like a gorgeously appropriate framework for the McQueen aesthetic: the final fashion show sequence is genuinely beautiful. However, a piece that takes itself this seriously needs to be offering up something more profound, humane and frankly better written than what is on show here. Gorgeous visuals, but ultimately all style and no substance.

Read the full review