The Naked and the Dead

When I was young, my celebrity crush was David Bowie. I followed him around from his home in Beckenham to his London studios like a sick puppy. It all paid off when a design I sent him became one of his most iconic costumes. You can read that story here.

As a mature woman, celebrity crushes are few and far between. That said, I once wandered into a Maida Vale cafe for breakfast, and was literally struck breathless by the beauty of a young man at an adjoining table. Jude Law. Since then, I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for him and was looking forward to seeing the older version in a dramatisation of the Visconti film, Obsession. Alas, however beautiful the star, it is no compensation for a execrable entertainment. I blogged the performance, reproduced below, for my reviews website Monkey Matters Theatre.

Obsession review, The Barbican

Obsession filled me with obsessive longing within minutes of starting, and it wasn’t a longing to rip off Jude Law’s clothes. Nonetheless he ripped them off for us. But kept his pants on, which was a shame,  because proceedings badly needed a lift. The decision to give the cast personal microphones meant Law had a large piece of tape flapping on his back. It looked like his skin was coming off. Or maybe it was crawling? For a man with moves like a panther, how terrible to face a female lead lacking both sensuality and sexuality. Law was like a character out of Tennessee Williams. His woman – the object of his Obsession – was from Honk!

To add to the sense of disconnect, Obsession is written in kindergarten English. There is no nuance, no depth, no sophistication. The lovers, who barely know each other, instantly kill the jealous husband who stands between them. As if this theatrical dog’s breakfast needed any extra ingredients, events then spiral out of control.

The story is laughable and the characterisation barely makes the third dimension. Director, Ivo van Hove, who conceived the play, fills the gaps in the dramatic vacuum with murderous assaults and flashes of female breasts. He plays music at top volume over dialogue and car crashes. And Jude Law running away on a treadmill (sic). There is a constant clash, rather than blend, of the theatrical and the cinematic.

Mr Van Hove is the director de jour, perhaps with reason, but it feels like the Emperor’s New Clothes. I have only seen one of his previous productions, the David Bowie jukebox drama Lazarus. Like Obsession, the emotion in Lazarus was mapped rather than expressed or explored. The result was robotic: Tech 4.0 comes to the London stage. My response was to give away my ticket to Van Hove’s Hedda Gabler. I didn’t want to risk falling out of love with its star, the wondrous Ruth Wilson. Tonight, in order not to fall out of love with Jude Law, I shall go to sleep remembering his superb 2009 Hamlet. 

In conclusion: Unlike the clever punters who fled early, I waited obsessively to exit at the interval. There wasn’t one. The piece runs without a break. We were literally a captive audience.  Not one for the faint-hearted.