McQueen, now nearly at the end of its brief run at the St James Theatre in London, is a mesmerising trip that weaves through urban streets and nostalgic haunts, tracing the journey of a fashion genius on one night as he falls headlong into his past, and the tragic future that was to befall him. Alexander McQueen’s legacy in British and global fashion is without question, his death at such an early age and at the peak of his career cast a shadow over the industry. Stephen Wight not only looks the part, but manages to gracefully and powerfully embody the late East-End cultural icon in his poignant portrayal of an unravelling and lost figure on the brink of suicide.
However, Wight’s success is a saving grace for a production that ultimately feels like a half-crafted idea. It is stylish, sure, and the choreography of the dancers must be commended, for the mannequin-like movements are wonderful, embellishing the scene transitions and producing a surreality to the already bizarre events of the strange, sprawling London night. Tracy-Ann Oberman, too, is a delight to watch as the dreamlike apparition of Isabella Blow. Where the play falters is its seemingly disingenuous and, unfortunately, hollow sentiment.
Into McQueen’s closed-off world breaks a young girl, Dahlia, played by Dianna Agron, who teases the designer into creating her a perfect dress. To do so, the duo embark on an adventure through the London that styled Lee McQueen into ‘Alexander’, from Savile Row’s Anderson & Sheppard to Stratford. Flighty, fighty and ethereal, Agron succeeds in fulfilling the middle requirement, but her attempts at conveying the fragility of the mysterious girl don’t manage to shine as much as Stephen Wight’s efforts do. He has a magnificent presence on stage as he unveils the inner torment of ‘Alexander’ McQueen, while Agron’s charms can only reach so far as she gets dragged down by heavy and entirely too mawkish dialogue, at times making this short 90-minute play seem like an overly long effort.
This should have been great, but it strove for too much and couldn’t quite deliver. In Wight, it had its beating heart, and with a little less polish and perhaps a little more magic, this could have been a glittering way to honour the designer; instead, it is a confused and meandering piece that never quite settles into the earnest rhythm it should have had.