I can’t claim to be a David Bowie fan, but I was still intrigued at the thought of seeing his musical Lazarus. Based on the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth, it was written by Enda Walsh and directed by Ivo van Hove.
In a purpose-built theatre near Kings Cross, which I luckily managed to get a front row ticket for, the set is staged: beige, with a glass back wall behind which the band play. It’s the setting for one of the strangest shows I’ve ever seen on the London stage.
In truth it feels more like a piece of conceptual art than a theatre show. Never having seen the original film, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. What made the show interesting for me were the actors. Michael C Hall is hugely compelling as Thomas Newton, the alien trapped on earth: he is on stage for some time before the show begins, and sitting in the front row I could hardly take my eyes off him. Sophia Ann Caruso is also extremely good as the otherworldly young girl who befriends him, while Amy Lennox is effective as his assistant Elly. I’m not sure what the purpose of Michael Esper’s character Valentine was, but I can’t fault his performance.
Jan Versweyveld’s lighting and design is modern and stark, but there was one part I really disliked, when flashing lights dominated the stage. Warnings about strobe lighting aren’t exactly uncommon in theatre but this took things to the next level.
Most people will be attracted to this show because of the Bowie connection. I’m not all that familiar with his music, but I did like it, and it really suited the show.
Despite, as I mentioned, not having a clue what was going on most of the time, I was still moved, especially at the end when Hall and Caruso sang a moving duet. It’s certainly not a conventional theatre show, but I enjoyed it for all that.