I was already curious when I heard Glee star Dianna Agron was making her theatre debut all the way across the pond, let alone in a production about the late designer Alexander McQueen. I didn't know what to expect. Coincidentally (or maybe not), the play has its six week run around the same time as the V&A hosts its Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition. Fresh from seeing the latter I'd been left in awe and deeply moved from witnessing McQueen's extraordinary pieces in real life, I had a new found interest in this doomed designer's life for I felt as if I'd previously glanced over his deep, dark visions in favour of a popular skull scarf.
When I take my seat at St James theatre, Stephen Wight who plays the titular role of McQueen himself is already present on stage, all by his lonesome and seemingly deep in thought, brow furrowed and occasionally rubbing his temple. He remains in this position as the theatre fills up prior to the play's start. As soon as it hits half past, the music starts (a string cover of Nirvana's Come As You Are as played on the runway of 2008's The Girl Who Lived In The Tree collection) and dancers clad in half corsets and his trademark armadillo heels, their heads swathed in white cloth take to the stage. It's a promising opening scene, the choreography is brilliant, purposely disjointed and eerie and it takes me a moment to realise that the dancers are actually setting the stage with props whilst dancing, it was such a unique and clever way to do it. Sadly the magic quickly evaporates when the dancers leave the stage. Alexander Lee McQueen is up in his studio late at night, pondering a name for his latest collection when a mysterious girl appears (Agron) who he assumes to be a thief. Her name is Dahlia and she explains that she had thought the studio to be deserted and had come to steal a dress. Dahlia has a rebellious and care-free vibe that seems to draw McQueen to her and instead of calling the police on her, he ends up deciding to make her a dress from scratch.
Stephen Wight is quite believable as the genius designer, moods constantly swinging as the man begs for inspiration. Dianna Agron however, unfortunately acts as flat and lifeless as a sheet of cardboard. She speaks as though she is reading her lines from a piece of paper and she makes it difficult for us to feel what McQueen supposedly feels around her. There's no charismatic aura that draws the audience to her, and as McQueen puts it in the next scene, he has to see a person's aura before he can make a dress for them. It's definitely the stage direction and choreography that bring this play to life. The scene where McQueen designs and puts together a dress for Dahlia is impressive, unseeming scraps of black fabric are one by one wrapped, pinned and swathed around her figure until the end result is a gorgeous asymmetric, puffy skirted masterpiece that becomes her costume for the rest of the play. In a turn of events, it's revealed that Dahlia is depressed and suicidal, an ode to the disease that plagued and took McQueen himself in reality, and that she actually came for a 'dress to die in'. The dialogue between them is quite beautiful but it's a shame that Agron's delivery doesn't do the writing any justice. Honestly if it weren't for the music, choreography and flashy staging, I would have probably fallen asleep. It's only worth a watch if you're interested in fashion and Alexander McQueen's work or perhaps if you're a die-hard Dianna Agron fan and would like to see her in the flesh. I did smile in the end though, when McQueen finally revealed what he had chosen to name his collection.