Writ­ten by David Bowie and Enda Walsh Di­rec­tor: Ivo van Hove

The Week Middle East - - Arts -

King’s Cross Theatre, London N1 (0844-815 7141) Un­til 22 Jan­uary 2017 Run­ning time: 1hr 50mins (no in­ter­val) David Bowie was al­ways the most “the­atri­cally minded” of rock stars, said Paul Tay­lor in The In­de­pen­dent, and Lazarus, which is a kind of se­quel to The Man Who Fell to Earth (the 1976 Ni­co­las Roeg film in which Bowie starred) sits squarely in that tra­di­tion. Bowie worked on this show the year be­fore he died, and “how con­sol­ing” it is to dis­cover what a “rare and mes­meric tes­ta­ment” it is. The pro­duc­tion com­bines Bowie’s mu­sic – fa­mil­iar hits and three new songs – with a script by the Ir­ish play­wright Enda Walsh, which takes up the story of Thomas New­ton, the alien­ated alien played by Bowie in the film. First staged in New York (it pre­miered just weeks be­fore Bowie’s death in Jan­uary), Ivo van Hove’s “su­perla­tively staged and sung pro­duc­tion” has now been re­mounted in a “cus­tom-built 960-seat pop-up” in King’s Cross. Spec­tac­u­lar to look at, and beau­ti­fully acted, it held me “rapt through­out”.

Not me, said Michael Billing­ton in The Guardian. It’s a strange amal­gam, this show: part sci-fi story, part rock con­cert, part video in­stal­la­tion, part study in alien­ation. “While the sep­a­rate in­gre­di­ents are fas­ci­nat­ing to watch” – and Bowie’s death of course lends pro­ceed­ings a “patina of melan­choly” – I rarely felt moved. Over­all, the show is a dis­ap­point­ment, agreed Do­minic Cavendish in The Daily Tele­graph. Even so, just hear­ing (“live and loud”) some of those clas­sics – Life on Mars, Ab­so­lute Be­gin­ners, Changes, He­roes and, above all, the weepie Where Are We Now? – “causes a mist of emo­tion­steeped reverie to de­scend. For some, that’ll be enough.”

The best thing about Lazarus is the com­mit­ted per­for­mances, said David Jays in The Sun­day Times – es­pe­cially that of Michael C. Hall, who makes a “mem­o­rable” New­ton and has a fine, Bowie-like singing voice. The stage pic­tures, too, can be “be­guil­ing”: a mas­sacre of black bal­loons, blood that runs white like milk, a child­like rocket out­line taped on the floor. But how­ever en­tic­ing the images, it’s hard to work up en­thu­si­asm for this list­less “mud­dle” of a show. “Is there life on Mars? Pos­si­bly. Is there life in Lazarus? Barely a flicker.” An In­spec­tor Calls Stephen Daldry’s “vi­sion­ary” pro­duc­tion of J.B. Pri­est­ley’s “so­phis­ti­cated ag­it­prop” – one of this year’s GCSE set texts – re­turns to the West End in a strongly cast re­vival. It’s still “as­tound­ing” stuff (Tele­graph). char­ac­ter, from the ea­ger young suitor to the down-and-out poet mired in his past. “The blaz­ing ar­dour” of Grigòlo’s singing “re­veals the poet Hoffmann as a life force, burn­ing bril­liantly till the last drop of en­ergy is spent”.

Thomas Hampson plays the mul­ti­ple ver­sions of Hoffmann’s de­monic neme­sis with an un­set­tling mix of me­nace and charm, said Tim Ash­ley in The Guardian. The women are also ex­cel­lent. Sofia Fom­ina’s Olympia, with her “steely, clock­work coloratura”, con­trasts nicely with Chris­tine Rice’s “truly dan­ger­ous” Gi­uli­etta. Sonya Yoncheva makes a heart­break­ing An­to­nia, and Kate Lind­sey is strong as Nick­lausse, the “voice of rea­son that Hoffmann all too rarely hears”. All told, this is a “be­guil­ing” piece of mu­sic theatre: by turns “witty, erotic and macabre”. Barb Jungr and John McDaniel: Come To­gether Jungr’s “think­ing per­son’s cabaret” ap­proach to Dylan, Brel and Leonard Co­hen has been widely ac­claimed. Now she takes on The Bea­tles, with McDaniel’s piano ar­range­ments adding bold har­monic and rhythmic twists (Sun­day Times).

Hall with Sophia Anne Caruso

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