King’s Cross Theatre, London – until 22 January 2017
“A man lost in time” .. It’s no secret that I’m a big Ivo van Hove fan, I’ve been to New York and Amsterdam several times to see his work as regular readers will know, so booking for his latest show to hit London – Lazarus – was a no-brainer. At the same time though, I have to say that the music of David Bowie has played little part in my life, so a musical continuing the story of his 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth and based on his songs doesn’t actually carry the same appeal that I might normally have with a van Hove show.
Of course, the shock news of Bowie’s passing as the show opened in New York this past winter lends Lazarus an especial charge, featuring as it does songs from his later albums and songs that were written for this project, among some of the last he ever penned. To an outsider though, it makes for strange experience with a strong sense of mood prevailing over a defined narrative progression, Enda Walsh co-writing a book with Bowie that is labyrinthine in its own fractured, hallucinatory way.
Van Hove’s staging, spectacularly designed by regular collaborator Jan Versweyveld, is stunning to look at as it blends in his beloved live video (designed by Tal Yarden) with Tom Cawley‘s assured musical direction to give us sequence after sequence which may take place in Thomas Newton‘s – that man who fell… – mind or might possibly be taking place in the real world. As played by Michael C Hall, Newton is caught between memories of past love and possibilities of future escape, all meshed with present-day confusion.
Hall guides us through this journey as best he can, exploring Walsh and Bowie’s notions of the power of the imagination with an impassioned and energetic verve. And there’s excellent support throughout the company – original cast members Sophia Anne Caruso‘s otherwordly Girl and Michael Esper’s sinister Valentine both shine, with Amy Lennox’s achingly good Elly matching them for intensity and familiar faces like Jamie Muscato and Tom Parsons also delivering good work. If ultimately I found Lazarus aesthetically pleasing rather than fully emotionally engaging, I suspect Bowie fans will find a lot more.
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (without interval)Photos: Johan PerssonBooking until 22nd January