Lazarus- Bowie’s alien anguish

  • Theatre
Lazarus- Bowie’s alien anguish


Thu, 10/11/2016 - 17:05


Sophia Anne Caruso as Girl and Michael C Hall as Newton in Lazarus. Photo: Jan V
Sophia Anne Caruso as Girl and Michael C Hall as Newton in Lazarus. Photo: Jan Versweyveld
10 November, 2016

WHEN David Bowie’s musical opened in New York last November, the audience had no idea how close to death he was.  Although it broke box office records, many people were baffled by it.  With the benefit of hindsight, and the knowledge that Bowie always stayed one step ahead of his audience, it is not such a surprise to find that Lazarus is a serious and challenging work that has more in common with an avant-garde opera than a jukebox musical.

Lazarus is inspired by the book and film The Man Who Fell to Earth, in which Bowie took the lead role of Thomas Newton, the eternally stranded alien. Bowie said of the part, “I just threw my real self into that movie” and perhaps many of Bowie’s own experiences are reflected in this work. Lazarus picks up Newton’s story some years later, when fame and celebrity have caught up with him and he is living a reclusive life, shacked up in a hotel room, drinking cheap gin, eating junk food and wanting to die. He is haunted by the memory of a past love and is awaiting the arrival of another lost soul to set him free. 

Scenes from his life, atmospherically realised by scenic and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld, are played out on a giant television screen he obsessively watches.

Newton is played by American actor Michael C Hall (Six Feet Under/Dexter) who brings an otherworldly charisma to the part. He is joined from the New York production by Michael Esper as Valentine and Sophie Anne Caruso as Girl. Co-written with Enda Walsh, the Irish playwright, and sensitively directed by Ivo Van Hove, the stellar cast rise to the challenge of bringing Bowie’s vision to life. 

In all there are 17 of Bowie’s songs in Lazarus, some written specially for it. However, even the back catalogue has been reworked and refashioned most imaginatively, making them fresh and vital to the text.  

As Bowie was constantly re-inventing himself, it seems appropriate that his final offering should be this dark, mysterious cry of pain and anguish. 

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