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Tracy Ann Oberman and Stephen Wight in McQueen. Photo: Specular

The world of fashion is a lot about style over substance, so it’s perhaps appropriate that McQueen, James Phillips’s new play about the iconic late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen that has transferred from a spring run at the St James to the West End’s Haymarket, shares that attribute.

It is also strangely lethargic, in-between strutting displays of movement in which a cast of variously lean, tall dancers are dressed like shop floor mannequins or fashion show runway models.

The play follows hard on the recent, record-breaking Victoria and Albert Museum retrospective of the designer’s work, that was seen by nearly half a million people during its 21-week run. This play seeks to be about the man as much as his work, as it follows Stephen Wight’s McQueen — brooding, intense and mirthless — on a dark night of the soul with a young female intruder to his home (played by Carly Bawden). It turns out she works in his Bond Street shop, and he tries to save her from suicide — the fate he would himself succumb to, as would his friend and patron Isabella Blow, sympathetically embodied by Tracy-Ann Oberman.

It’s a play partly about the all-consuming spectre of depression, and at one point as Lee asks Isabella, “Am I going to make it Issy?”, he replies, “You already know the answer to that question.”

So do we, which rather diminishes the dramatic tension. But John Caird’s production – animated by pixelated, hallucinatory images of London from video designer Timothy Bird — conjures a good visual sense of McQueen’s world, and it feels right at home in the glittering gold leaf proscenium arch of the Haymarket itself that’s a neat echo of the gold-feathered McQueen coat that is a centrepiece of the collection shown here.

Dramatically defective but scenically effective, McQueen feels like an opportunistic encounter with the legendary designer

Production Information

Theatre Royal Haymarket
August 24, 2015
November 7, 2015
Press night
August 27, 2015
James Phillips
John Caird
David Farley
David Howe
John Leonard
Linda McKnight (wigs), Katy Kettleborough (costume supervisor)
Timothy Bird
Jacqueline C Morgan (company manager), Julian Stoneman (executive producer, general manager), Lizzie Frankl (props supervisor),
Production manager
Lee Batty
Cast includes
Stephen Wight, Carly Bawden, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Laura Rees, Michael Bertenshaw
Kate Plantin, Jayne Collins, Adam Maskell (casting directors)
Robert Mackintosh, Amir Ltd, Hilary A Williams, Deborah Negri, Dead Posh Productions, Julian Stoneman
Running time
2hrs 15mins