Lazarus – review

This is unlike anything else you’ve ever seen in musical theatre. The promise of a sequel to the Bowie/Nicholas Roeg film The Man Who Fell to Earth (based on Walter Tevis’ book) is tempting. But I guess anyone who knows any work by Bowie or Roeg in particular would also know that you will be expected to bring some intellectual effort to the proceedings to make any kind of sense of what’s going on. The alternative approach is not to worry and just enjoy the experience. Both will work!

Michael C Hall as Thomas Newton

We find ourselves in Thomas Newton’s New York apartment some 40 years after the action of the film. An alien still trapped on earth he has apparently not aged physically but is in destructive mode (he drinks gin straight from the fridge at 9.30 in the morning and seems never to leave the flat). He encounters various people, most significantly a girl (and identified only as such) who reminds him of his wife. At a later point a murderous character called Valentine appears. But if there is a story going on it was not apparent.

But there are three stand-out elements in the production which, even if you find the impossible narrative too much of a stretch, will captivate and enthral. First there is the strikingly stark lighting of the set, sitting crisply against the blackness of the new theatre space at Kings Cross. Onto this bland backdrop are projected various video images. Sometimes these are of the action on the stage, and it’s not clear if the fact they were not always in sync with the live action was deliberate or a technical mishap. Secondly there is the band. Standing across the back of the stage they bring new life to a range of Bowie’s classic songs, in the process creating some new definitive versions. Finally there are the two stunning musical performances from Michael C Hall in the lead – Bowie to the life in the songs – and, hitting some hugely powerful notes, Sophia Anne Caruso as Girl. According to Wikipedia she is just 15 – so remember, you saw her here first!

Finally, a warning. There are I am told 900 seats in this new theatre (effectively an industrial size tent), all on one level on a gentle rake. And there’s the problem. Make sure you get a seat near the front. Towards the back much of the stage is blocked if there’s someone of even modest height in front of you. And the floor of the stage is impossible to see – a problem as the director has set much the action with the cast sitting or lying on the floor and therefore completely out of sight.

Lazarus is at the Kings Cross Theatre, London