Portrait Of A Fashion Icon In McQueen

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 42 months ago
Portrait Of A Fashion Icon In McQueen ★★★☆☆ 3

Tracy-Ann Oberman as Isabella Blow and Stephen Wight as Lee in McQueen. Photo by Specular.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Writer James Phillips’s imaginative new play McQueen attempts to glimpse inside the multi-faceted mind of tragic fashion icon Alexander McQueen. And therein lies the challenge: to pay tribute and justice, within the scope of two hours, to the achievements of this complicated legend.

The show opens with McQueen (Stephen Wight) nervously pacing his studio to a tune by Nirvana, while dancers catwalk exaggeratedly and waltz with mannequins in apparition-like costumes as the line between real and unreal blends and blurs. Shortly thereafter, Dahlia (Dianna Agron) a monotone-voiced American intruder walks in and the plot, such as it is, is set in motion.

Despite the lacklustre story that follows with its excessive suicide references, verbose dialogue and overlong scenes — which seem a poor match to the tempo of high fashion — the show is visually impressive. The trio behind the lavish set design, gorgeous digital projections and lighting are David Farley, Timothy Bird and David Howe, who excel in recreating McQueen’s fantastical imagination. As you would expect the costumes are vibrant, bold and flirtatious while the music, taken directly from McQueen's shows, alternates creepily between the foreboding and the lackadaisical.

An array of slightly bewildering characters includes Isabella Blow (Tracey-Ann Oberman), Mr. Hitchcock (David Shaw-Parker) and Arabella (Laura Rees), who are thrown into the mix without their relationships to McQueen being sufficiently developed. That includes surprisingly brief references to McQueen's mother, whose death many believe was entwined with his own suicide.

One of the stronger elements is the semi-successful elucidation of the mind behind the work: his inspirations, thoughts and deep paranoia. These manifest as eerie, self-imposed questions such as ‘Am I going make it?' and 'What do I do with the time I have remaining?’ to reflections on fashion, like the beautiful insight: ‘People used clothes like weapons, so others wouldn’t raise a fist to someone who looks like a God.’ However, the probing only goes so far and ultimately left us wanting more insight into McQueen's rare genius.

McQueen runs at the St James Theatre until 27 of June. Tickets are £25 to £65. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 27 May 2015