For as long as I’ve known about McQueen, I’ve been amazed by the way his mind worked. Constantly working and inventing and re-working and re-inventing. Mostly seeming troubled and tormented when the final pieces unveiled.
Although stunning, his work always had an underlying, darker message that he wanted to share, but not necessarily the darker message that is initially obvious. I liked that.
I’ve always been fascinated, and longed to be able to sit behind his eyes, see what he saw, think how he thought. I’ve been to exhibitions, talks and spoken to people who knew him with a sense of jealousy at their fortune for such a small glimpse into his twisted world.
When the opportunity came up to see the play, aptly titled, McQueen, there was not even half a moment I wouldn’t be going.
Held at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, the play promised to be “Powerful and memorable” according to critics. Once seated, a lone Stephen Wight took centre stage, waiting, stretching a belt around his hands as the audience fumbled around to find their places. The likeness of Wight to McQueen was astounding, and I found myself having to double take once I locked on to his face.
Things got extremely personal, to the point where I felt guilty watching
As the show started, I was surprised to see the play was a lot more narrative than I had imagined, and as I hadn’t read up anything about it previously – for this very reason – I guess I shouldn’t have gone in with any expectation at all.
If honest, as the beginning unfolded, and we saw McQueen drunkenly pacing around his studio, and the mysterious young girl from a tree outside emerged, things got a little comical. I worried at that point that this whole affair would be a cheesy account of the life of a legend.
I was wrong.
The entire production consisted of 12 cast members, 4 of whom were spoken parts, the rest made of beautiful, mannequin-like ballerinas. They played an integral part in the stage set up and re-arranging, which was immaculately done in such a way you almost forgot it was one small stage with minimal props.
I realised my wish to know this man was coming true
Once we had acquainted with this mystery girl, who had broken in to the studio to find a dress for the night, things got deep. I mean, really deep.
It was as Isabella Blows appeared, as a fragment of McQueen’s tormented imagination, and distressed shouting between them highlighting his guilt for her death, I realised my wish to know this man was coming true.
I almost regretted my thoughts. Things got extremely personal, to the point where I felt guilty watching. It was like some sort of sick voyeurism, watching a young man struggle so much within the constraints of his own mind. The mystery girl’s character also developed into another, dark and haunting situation, further emulating the secrets none of us outside admirers were really that aware of.
I cried 3 times.
As a production, to me it ticked all boxes. Clever stage design, raw and cleverly worded script, loud, heart pounding music and, of course, incredible costumes. The microscope dress, the handmade dress that was crafted from fabric on the girl on stage there and then, the lobster claw shoes… It had it all. Plus, the emotional story had me gripped from the very beginning.
Was it all real? Who knows – only those that truly knew him will know – but as a show I cannot fault it. If you go, don’t expect a lovey dove whirlwind fashion story, because all you’ll get is a dark and emotional slap in the face.