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Lazarus, King’s Cross Theatre, review: ‘A thoroughly challenging two hours of theatre’

PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 November 2016

Michael C Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso 	Picture: Johan Persson

Michael C Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso Picture: Johan Persson

Archant

Based on Walter Tevis’ sci-fi story The Man Who Fell to Earth it’s either a moving meditation on loss and grief or a messily unsuccesful bid at corralling Bowie’s back catalogue into a satisfying night out

How the combined talents of David Bowie, Ivo Van Hove, Enda Walsh and a cast in fine voice add up to a thoroughly challenging two hours of theatre is as much of a mystery as the wilfully kooky plotline of this unconventional jukebox musical.

Based on Walter Tevis’ sci-fi story The Man Who Fell to Earth it’s either a moving meditation on loss and grief or a messily unsuccesful bid at corralling Bowie’s disparate back catalogue into a satisfying night out.

Less of a jukebox, more a shuffle play of hits that seem to pop up at random, we meet beige-clad reclusive Manhattan billionnaire. Newton in his eye-strainingly beige apartment attended by frustrated housekeeper Elly.

He’s an alien trapped on earth, mourning the loss of his wife, “a dying man who can’t die”. An angelic girl - a figment of his imagination - arrives to help him build a rocket back to his planet, while Luciferesque Valentine embarks on an American Psycho-style slasher spree.

By the time a woman in Japanese dress jumps on Newton’s bed and he slides around in milk you may have stopped listening to the irritatingly eilliptical dialogue and be focusing on the songs played by a live band behind perspex.

When sung by others it’s clear that lyrically Bowie was no poet but Sophia Anne Caruso offers an ethereally pure rendition of Life on Mars,

Amy Lennox delivers a poppy Changes and there’s a pared down, affecting Heroes. Best of all Michael C Hall’s Newton sounding chillingly like the recently deceased star sings his Berlin homage Where are We Now?

As the set swirls with projected footage of Cold War era Germany van Hove’s production finally works when it most resembles a music video.

You can’t help wonder whether the usually excellent Walsh (Hunger, Once) was sufficiently ruthless with Bowie’s co-writing contribution and whether were it not for the star’s death nine days before the close of the New York run this space oddity might not have made it over the pond.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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