McQueen at the Haymarket
Plunging into the mind of a genius, John Caird’s McQueen is an imagined night with the late, great designer (“just call me Lee”) as he struggles with his thoughts and attempts to come up with an idea for a new collection. Featuring a stand-out performance from Stephen Wight as McQueen, it is every bit as unusual and intriguing as one might expect.
On a night like any other, Lee is pacing his workspace when a noise prompts him to hide and take cover. Believing the house to be empty, the mysterious tree-dwelling Dahlia (Carly Bawden) has broken in to steal some of McQueen’s designs. After a panicked phone call with Philip Treacy(!), it soon transpires that this intruder is not a threat and they strike up a deal: if Lee agrees to make her a dress, she will inspire his next collection. Cue a journey through London, and stop offs in Savile Row and Green Park, and a visit from a ghostly Isabella Blow (Tracy-Ann Oberman). The audience is transported through both McQueen’s past and his mind in the pursuit of an idea – and a reason to keep on living.
Having famously and fatally suffered from depression, the play takes the audience to a time towards the end of McQueen’s life. His mother is seriously ill and he feels completely lost, but he is still fighting to hold on. While Dahlia’s character is an interesting personification of his own fragile mental state, the short but significant interaction between Lee and Isabella is the most powerful aspect of the play. As Lee comes to terms with the fact that eventually he will succumb to his depression, Isabella, dressed in all of her finery complete with her beloved heels, strokes his head and announces “it’s the illness darling”. A melancholy moment, it is so openly truthful that it gives extra value to the entire play.
Around the action are dancers, dressed for high fashion and choreographed meticulously: styled like the never-ending runway show in McQueen’s mind, they threaten to overpower not only the stage, but their creator. Combined, it makes for a play worthy of praise. There is a tangible weakness to McQueen; his desperation to hold on and create wonders for the fashion world both torments and maintains him. It is a must-see for fans, and with the mental health storyline the true focus, an intriguing watch for all.
McQueen is on at Haymarket Theatre from 24th August until 7th November 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for McQueen here: