“Not being able to die is a joke. A fucking terrible joke.” – So speaks Michael C Hall in David Bowie’s Musical, Lazarus.
As the sequel to Walter Travis’ novel, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Lazarus looks into the mind of a broken Thomas Jerome Newton [played by Michael C Hall] and explores the alien’s final few days on the Earth. Sold as a musical, David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s creation is more of a modern piece of art. An insight into the life of an alcoholic, who is tortured by his own imagination and is in constant grieving for his own life.
Although Lazarus is a story within itself, it’s as though Bowie’s is telling his fans that, just like the rest of his career, he also controlled and planned his death. It is hard to come away from Lazarus with any other conclusion.
Bowie’s spirit possesses Michael C Hall during the performance as at times they sound uncannily similar. There are numerous lines throughout the play such as, “I’m a dying man who can never die”, which are so poignant following Bowie’s death, suggesting a man who knows his life was coming to an end.
The first time we hear Hall sing is his rendition of Lazarus, a haunted version that’s enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. He has a tone to his voice that if you closed your eyes you would think it was Bowie himself on the stage.
The production has been crafted around colour. Everything including the costumes and scenery was beige, except Newton’s past love, Mary Lou, who whenever appeared in his thoughts was bright and vivid. She wore an electric blue wig which drew a huge contrast against the flesh coloured backdrop, showing there was no longer vibrancy in Newton’s life.
From the outset, the songs don’t always work with the plot and the scenes are somewhat disjointed. It is this approach that reflects Newton’s mental state and suggests the panic Bowie was feeling knowing he was running out of time.
Bowie handed a list of 69 songs to Walsh to choose from – a subtle hint to the age he would die. The songs chosen from this list are ones you would not expect to hear in a musical written by the Starman. Songs such as It’s No Game, Love Is Lost and Always Crashing In The Same Car were all stand-out performances of the night.
Although there was an unusual selection, there were also some of Bowie’s well known hits thrown into the mix, such as This Is Not America and Life on Mars. Both of these are performed by 15 year old Sophia Anne Caruso who completely steals the show. Her voice is so delicate, yet so strong, and profoundly controlled.
Sophia plays The Girl, a figure of Newton’s imagination that symbolise his last piece of hope, who ends up dying at Newton’s feet, convincing him to also take his own life. It’s a sad ending however leaves the audience feeling surprisingly relieved and happy because Tommy is finally free.
Sophia said, “I knew David’s work my whole life. I grew up with it, so to be in Lazarus in New York in the first place was a huge deal to me. But bringing Lazarus to his hometown has been a highlight of my life, and I know we are honouring him and doing him proud”.
The play leaves you with a strong feeling that Bowie would not allow cancer to dictate how he was going to die. As the director of Lazarus, and as someone who directed the entirety of his career, it’s as though the musical presents a metaphor that he too directed his own death, and has admitted this through Tommy’s suicide.
You can see Lazarus at London’s Kings Cross Theatre until January next year.