Lazarus – Review

by Joseph Sarrington Smith

I remember when I went through my David Bowie ‘phase’. I was eleven years old, I was on a particularly boring holiday and I was listening to his music pretty much constantly as a way of staying sane. Although my obsession with him has dissipated over the years, the fascination still remains. Lazarus had its first outing in New York late last year. Like his final studio album, ‘Blackstar’ (which includes a track called Lazarus), a lot of the production was kept secret. When tickets became available, they sold out in just a few hours.

Lazarus is inspired by ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, a novel written by Walter Tevis. I’ve never read the book, but I’ve seen the film adaptation, directed by Nicolas Roeg. To be honest, I’m surprised this wasn’t enough to put me off going, as the film is one of the most tedious things I’ve ever watched. In a nutshell, an alien called Thomas Jerome Newton lands on earth and finds a way to bring his people to Earth from his home planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. Funnily enough, despite this version being created in a meeting of great minds (writers David Bowie & Enda Walsh as well as director Ivo van Hove) I still found the story fairly dull, but I wasn’t there for the plot…

No, I was there for the songs! In no particular order we’re treated to eighteen Bowie tracks, from ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ (1970), all the way to ‘Lazarus’ (2016). Along the way, there were some pleasant surprises including songs taken from soundtracks: ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘This Is Not America’ (‘The Falcon & The Snowman’).

It’s certainly visually interesting though. I felt like I was watching a musical, a piece of theatre, a dance piece and a video installation, all blended into one. It definitely seems apt, as Bowie was a cultural magpie. Credit must go to the band. With the exception of ‘Sound & Vision’, they can be seen performing the tracks onstage. Then there’s the cast, of course, to help them bring the songs to life. Michael C. Hall is brilliant in the lead role, and deserves praise simply for having to lie still onstage for a long time. He’s there from when the first audience member enters the auditorium to when the show starts!

The original off-Broadway production was nominated for a lot of awards but didn’t win any. Hopefully, it will have more luck in London. However, ultimately I think this is something that will only truly be appreciated by people who love his music. The show ended on a poignant note, with Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso singing ‘Heroes’ as a duet. As we filed out, a image of The Thin White Duke himself could be seen smiling at us on the projector. I suddenly thought to myself, “What if Bowie IS Lazarus? What if he’s not actually dead? What if he’s still alive and he’ll be resurrected on the first anniversary of his death?” Then I realised I’d probably been reading too many internet conspiracy theories…

Lazarus is running at the Kings Cross Theatre until 22 January 2017

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