Some have described Alexander McQueen as ‘bold,’ ‘innovative’ and ‘daring’. Sadly, James Phillips’ play, McQueen, isn’t. Described as a ‘fairytale’ delving into the wild imagination of Alexander McQueen, it swings heavily towards becoming pretentious rather than being a moving tribute to the fashion icon.
McQueen takes place over one night as Dahlia (Dianna Agron) tries to burgle Alexander (Stephen Wight) for one of his dresses. Instead of reporting her, McQueen invites Dahlia into his world to see how his career grew, from working as a tailor in Saville Row to creating his own brand. Dahlia and Alexander are seen as two lost souls who both express their agonies and their lust for suicide. There’s no development or resolution to any of their problems by the climax, thus the tone feels incredibly flat throughout.
Agron comes across unlikeable as we see her become McQueen’s alter-ego. She has no emotional development and does not delve deep enough into a character that had the potential to portray McQueen’s troubles and fragile mind beautifully. Instead, Agron is infuriating in her lack of emotion or vocal range, and becomes more frustrating as we see her feature in almost every scene. Stephen Wight, however, saves this production with a winning performance as McQueen. Whilst looking very similar to him, Wight brings genuine soul to someone who can sometimes become a vicious character. His speech in which he examines an unknown woman who he has never talked to on her looks and life story is particularly insightful. This is one of the only few good sections of the script, filled with too much poetic wishy-washy dialogue about ‘life’ and ‘beauty,’ making it sound like an A Level Drama piece.
Timothy Bird’s projections are what brings McQueen’s imagination to life. His choice of colours and brightness levels give a striking impact, allowing the production to become reminiscent of a typical McQueen show. Christopher Marney’s choreography, however, glamorises the production too much, with the dancers taking the attention away from Wight the majority of the time. The drama is substituted for the ‘catwalk,’ making McQueen become more of a faux pas.
The one element I wished to see more of was how Alexander worked as a designer and his process in creating his masterpieces, as someone who does not know much about his collections. Rather than having the potential of emphasizing this and becoming a unique production about fashion, Philips’ play is a generic woozy psychological drama that leaves me unable to come up with an opinion of such an intriguing figure — both fashionably and psychologically…
Reviewed by Jack Grey
McQueen is playing at the St James Theatre until 27 June 2015. Click here for tickets
Note: I guest-reviewed this show myself for Official Theatre and my thoughts were quite different to Barry’s (going to show that one mans trash is another mans treasure). You can read my 5* review of the show here