Previewed 13 August 2015, Opened 27 August 2015, Closed 17 October 2015 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in London
A major production of James Phillips' new play McQueen, about the fashion designer Alexander McQueen, starring Stephen Wright in the title role and directed by John Caird - transfers to the West End after an acclaimed run at the St James Theatre in London.
A mysterious girl has been hiding in a tree in McQueen’s Mayfair garden for the past eleven nights, secretly watching him as he struggles to find inspiration for his new collection. Tonight she climbs down and breaks into his house to steal a dress she could never afford to buy, in the hope of becoming someone special. Together, they go out onto the streets of London and into the whirlwind of McQueen’s life. As the girl begins to unravel before him, it becomes clear that she needs more than her dream dress to see her through the night. With its beauty, the world invites us all to live another day, and with each other, two troubled souls may just find the comfort they so desperately crave.
James Phillips' stage play McQueen is a journey into the visionary imagination and dream world of Alexander McQueen, fashion’s greatest contemporary artist.
Originally seen at the St James Theatre in Victoria, London, this production has been especially revised and extended for its West End run here at the Haymarket Theatre Royal.
The cast features Stephen Wight as 'Alexander McQueen' along with Tracy-Ann Oberman as 'Isabella Blow' and Laura Rees as 'Arabella' who are all reprsing their roles from the original run at the St James Theatre. For this West End staging they will be joined by Carly Bawden as 'Dahlia' and Michael Bertenshaw as 'Mr Hitchcock'. Directed by John Caird. PLEASE NOTE: This play contains very strong language and is therefore only recommended for audiences aged 13+. There is no nudity.
When this production was originally seen in May 2015 at the St James Theatre in Victoria, London, Holly Williams in the Independent highlighted that "Stephen Wight as McQueen is brilliant casting, not only because he looks uncannily like the designer, but also because he really digs deep into the role... John Caird's production looks suitably fabulous." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard commented that "Alexander McQueen's designs were provocative and theatrical. Five years on from his death, it's not hard to grasp why this most fierce and fragile of artists is being glorified on stage. But this plodding and thinly plotted piece lacks the dramatic daring of a McQueen catwalk show... John Caird's production is visually opulent and features striking choreography by Christopher Marney. But the show's arresting looks can’t compensate for its lack of substance and soul." Dominic Maxwell in the Times said "this new play about Alexander McQueen is gorgeous to look at and a chore to sit through... The plot is driven only by our protagonist's desire to understand himself... Christopher Marney’s choreography is sensual and menacing, David Farley’s design elegant and evocative... McQueen ends up rich in atmosphere but thin on drama." Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph explained that "the problem with the script is that it mainly consists of two troubled souls agonising over their states of mind and, consequently, the tone remains flat throughout... However, the evening is saved by the prowess of the technical team which, in a series of fashion showstyle interludes, create both a sense of McQueen's creative chutzpah and the residual darkness that hung over his designs." Michael Billington in the Guardian thought "it is hard to work out precisely what James Phillips's study of the fashion designer Alexander McQueen is meant to be. At the end of 100 minutes, it struck me that it was primarily an act of worship: a secular hymn to a famous iconoclast who died tragically young at the age of 40. However you choose to define it, the show certainly doesn't offer much in the way of drama... Even if the show's basic note is one of rapt obeisance, it is stylishly directed by John Caird and smartly choreographed by Christopher Marney." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote: "Alexander McQueen, poor soul, hanged himself five years ago. Now we have a morbid, peculiar play that weaves a fantasy about the fashion designer spending a night on the town with a dotty girl who has barged into his home... the show just left me feeling glum, without any idea of what made McQueen a genius."
Stephen Wright's West End credits include Sean Foley's production of Graham Linehan's comedy The Ladykillers, based on the 1955 'Ealing Comedy' (Gieldgud Theatre 2012 and Samuel West's revial of Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice (Trafalgar Studios 2007). John Caird's West End credits include Jean Anouilh's Becket starring Dougray Scott (Haymarket Theatre Royal 2004), Charles Dyer's Rattle of a Simple Man starring Michelle Collins and Stephen Tompkinson (Harold Pinter Theatre 2004), Michael Weller's What The Night Is For starring Gillian Anderson (Harold Pinter Theatre 2002) and, along with Trevor Nunn, the original West End staging of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil musical Les Miserables (Palace Theatre 1985).
"There's a witty and humane script by James Phillips, some beautiful staging by the director John Caird, and powerful and memorable performances, especially in Stephen Wight's McQueen. But best of all, it reaches out beyond an obvious fashionista fanbase to address universal human themes: success and failure, loneliness and the need to belong... Anyone lazily tempted to dismiss all fashion as superficial, silly, meaningless, the product of a world inhabited by blank-eyed bubbleheads and raging narcissists, will find this play an agreeable challenge. Again and again, you're reminded that the clothes you wear are your choice, they're a statement — even if they're an anti-fashion statement — and you cannot escape that... McQueen isn't perfect, but it's far more thought-provoking than you might expect." The Sunday Times
"Those lucky enough to have seen the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A, a homage to the late, great fashion iconoclast Alexander McQueen, will find it much easier to get a handle on James Philips’s hagiographic play, a haunted, hallucinatory night in the life of the bad boy of fashion... John Caird’s production has exquisitely sculptured dancers strutting McQueen's stuff to Mozart and Marilyn Manson. Absolutely fabulous. But, like fashion, the play glosses over the ugliness, debauchery and depravity of McQueen’s life, as if they are the ineluctable flipside of tortured genius. Stylish, but not searching." The Mail on Sunday
McQueen/em> in London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre previewed from 13 August 2015, opened on 27 August 2015 and closed on 17 October 2015 - this production was originally scheduled to play up to 7 November 2015, but closed early.