One of David Bowie's last projects, Lazarus the musical, has arrived in London on 8 November this year and is scheduled to run until 22 January 2017 in King's Cross Theatre. Lazarus has been widely successful on Broadway in 2015, having been entirely sold out within a few hours of ticket release.
In case you imagine musicals as happy colourful dancing and singing routines, Lazarus is not exactly a show for you. Bowie's production is not an easy watch. It is dark, hallucinatory, violent, and, at the same time, absolutely beautiful, just like his music itself.
The story of Lazarus is based on Walter Tevis' novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, that tells a story of an alien who comes to our planet and find himself unable to die. The book was first made into a film in 1976, where Bowie starred as the protagonist. The musical, co-written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh, an Irish playwright, picks up the story of the alien, Thomas Newton, who is shown heartbroken, depressed, never leaving his apartment and drinking gin day and night. Various characters appear in his life, the existence of some make very little sense. People that surround him are his assistant Elly, who is struggling with an unhappy marriage and is drawn to her mysterious master; the Girl with no name, invisible to everyone apart from Newton, promising to help him leave the Earth; Valentine, an obsessive and violent man with unclear purpose and background, who tries to get to Newton through the rest of the characters. The production altogether presents a highly disturbed and, at the same time, empty world of a man who lost everything and now desires one thing that, of all people on the planet, cannot be given to him alone.
Now, a few facts about the cast and crew. The London production is directed by Ivo van Hove, a Belgian theatre director with a long career in international productions. The cast is a mix of English and American actors. The role of Newton is played by Michael C Hall, also known as Dexter from the US television series of the same name. Hall gives a stunning performance of a broken man on the verge of insanity with a softer, loving side to his personality. Amy Lennox playing Newton's assistant Elly, starred in a number of London-based productions, such as Kinky Boots or Legally Blonde. Valentine, the psychopathic antagonist in the play, is presented by Michael Esper, an American theatre and film actor, known for the role in the award-winning show American Idiot and A Man For All Seasons.
The whole ensemble only performs the songs by David Bowie, from various periods of his career; the hits include 'Lazarus' from his recent and final album Blackstar, shortly followed by the singer's death in 2016; 'Heroes', 'Changes', 'Valentine's Day' and many others. In the light of Bowie's recent passing, the show is a beautiful project, nostalgic for the artist's unique creative career and life.
The production design is absolutely worth mentioning. The stage is constructed with a central screen, that serves as a TV, a reflection of a character's' disturbed and hallucinations, as well as a mirror to everything that is happening on stage. The band is displayed as a background of the stage: people and instruments are placed in a sort of an aquarium that makes them both as a part of the cast, as well as completely separated from the rest of the people on stage. Essentially, video projections take the large part of the design concept. At some point, the whole stage becomes a screen for multiple projections, fragments from Newton's past life, his memories of different cities and experiences. Apart from the video, the setting is minimal: all there is on stage is a bed and a fridge, which vanish halfway through the show, leaving the character in a bare brown space, reminiscent of psychiatric hospital rooms.
The show lasts just under two hours, without an interval. It seems that the musical flow is a significant part of the experience, being a bit like both a Bowie music marathon and an ongoing nightmare. The ticket can be booked on the musical's official website, for prices ranging between £15 and £95. The shows run on the evenings from Tuesday to Saturday, and with additional day shows on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. There is an under 25s bonus for every day show on Wednesday - with a valid ID, under-25s can see the show for £25.
King's Cross Theatre is a purpose-built space constructed in 2014 for The Railway Children series of shows. It is located just behind the King's Cross station. The theatre has all the usual facilities, including a bar and a cloakroom, so you should not be put off by the urban look of the place - it is actually pretty cool inside!