Review Roundup: MCQUEEN, Starring Stephen Wight and Dianna Agron, Opens at the St. James

Award-winning actor Stephen Wight takes on the title role of Lee McQueen and Dianna Agron play Dahlia in the world premiere of James Phillips's play McQUEEN directed by John Caird, which will run at St. James Theatre through 27 June, and opens tonight, May 20.

The play also stars Tracy-Ann Oberman as Isabella Blow, Laura Rees as Arabella, and David Shaw-Parker as John Hitchcock, along with Sophie Apollonia, Amber Doyle, George Hill, Eloise Hymas, Jordan Kennedy, Rachel Louisa Maybank, James Revell and Carrie Willis.

McQUEEN is a journey into the visionary imagination and dark dream world of Alexander McQueen, fashion's greatest contemporary artist.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Lawrence, The Telegraph: Unfortunately this pretentious, unshapely piece feels like something of a fashion faux pas...The problem with the script is that it mainly consists of two troubled souls agonising over their states of mind and consequently, the tone remains flat throughout...Another issue is Agron...who never manages to elevate her character beyond a clothes-horse spouting psychobabble. She speaks in a strange, sing-song voice throughout, reciting rather than metabolising her lines...However, the evening is saved by the prowess of the technical team who, in a series of fashion show-style interludes, manage to create both a sense of McQueen's creative chutzpah and the residual darkness which hung over his designs...There's good work, too, from...Wight in the lead role who gives a dignity to the man that the text really doesn't deserve.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: However you choose to define it, the show certainly doesn't offer much in the way of drama...my chief complaint is that, although the show is full of allusions to Lee's collections, it doesn't tell us enough about how he worked. In Phillips's reverent vision, he becomes the archetype of the doomed artist suffering under the pressure of out-topping his last creation...it is stylishly directed by John Caird and smartly choreographed by Christopher Marney, as mobile mannequins take us through the labyrinthine world of the hero's imagination. Stephen Wight is also excellent as Lee: outwardly tough and self-assured, inwardly shy and vulnerable. Dianna Agron falls into monotonous vocal rhythms as Dahlia...The real problem is that by treating Lee principally as a tortured genius, Phillips never gives us any great insight into the real McQueen.

Holly Williams, The Independent: In writing a play about fashion designer Alexander McQueen, James Phillips has sensibly eschewed a straight bio-drama in favour of a one-night fairytale...Stephen Wight plays McQueen. No complaints there - it's brilliant casting, not only because he looks uncannily like the designer, but also because he really digs deep into the role. He bursts into wicked, gleeful laughter and vicious rages alike; he is watchful and wry, then hums with visionary fervour when artistic inspiration strikes. And Wight puts enough soul into the tortured genius stuff to make us believe this man's lofty idealism as well as seeing his vulnerabilities - Phillips does go hard on the Romantic espousing of the power of beauty, and the transformative possibilities of a dress. But Glee star Dianna Agron is not good, I'm afraid. Her delivery is glib yet slow - I never believe the quick-fire rapport with McQueen, and when they get onto more profound or personal matters, her probing feels painfully crass rather than deep-and-meaningful.

Matt Trueman, Variety: This is theater for oligarchs' wives. It looks impressive, but it's insubstantial; all brand, no craft. That actor Stephen Wight should wring a tender portrait of a troubled man out of such crass writing, surrounded by tech and opposite the expressionless void of co-star Dianna Agron ("Glee"), is nothing short of a marvel...It's not helped by Caird's direction, which appears more intent on dazzling with design than taking care of its subject matter...It's Wight's low-key, deft performance that holds the whole thing together and, indeed, prevents the piece from entirely defiling the man it sets out to honor...Agron, however, is little more than a clothes horse. She plays up Dahlia's numbness and ends up vocally monotone, facially inert and deeply unwatchable.

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