Review: Lazarus

An artful masterpiece, exquisitely executed 

By Narelle Wood


The Production Company presents Lazarus, David Bowie’s last project, written in collaboration with Enda Walsh. In true Bowie style it is both an incredible spectacle and a little hard to accurately describe.

Loosely based on The man who fell to earth, Newton (Chris Ryan) struggles with his existence on earth, the absence of his wife and his inability to return to his home planet. While Newton attempts to grapple with his life through alcohol and twinkies, a potentially imaginary girl (Emily Milledge) appears whose intention seems to be to help Newton in his quest to escape the earth. Meanwhile mass murderer Valentine (iOTA) is on the prowl for his next victim. And Elly (Phoebe Panarentos) and Zach (Mat Verevis) try to keep their relationship together despite the challenge of Elly’s new job as Newton’s assistant and her infatuation for him. The stories of the other characters – Maemi (Kaori Maeda-Judge), Michael (Mike McLeish), Ben (Josh Gates), supported by Jessie Monk, Baylie Carson and Jessica Vellucci – weave throughout, adding further complexity to the ethereal storyline.

Josh Gates, Kaori Maeda-Judge, Phoebe Panaretos and company. Photograph: Jeff Busby

And then there, of course, are David Bowie’s songs which connect the various plots and characters together. Each of the songs seems as if it was specifically written for the show, rather than the other way around. If someone were to describe everything happening on stage throughout the production, and sometimes all at once, it would risk sounding as if it were an awkward performance piece. There are LED screens with photographic projections, balloons, glitter, eccentric costuming, colourful wigs, dancers and a dance number evocative of a burlesque performance. But each detail works to create a Bowie-esque experience, an artful masterpiece that is exquisitely executed.  This is not only a testament to Bowie and Walsh’s vision but also to the team at The Production Company who have brought this production to life, including Michael Kantor (director) Jethro Woodward (Musical director), Stephanie Lake (choreographer), Natasha Pincus (film director) and Nick Roux (projection designer).

I’m not entirely sure whether this is a show everyone will walk away from loving in terms of its storyline, but that doesn’t seem to be its purpose. Lazarus is an experience and a masterful one at that.

Lazarus runs at Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne until 9 June. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photographs: Jeff Busby