Close-up: The Twiggy Musical – Review
Can there be anyone on the planet who doesn’t love Twiggy? Discovered by Deirdre McSharry, the fashion editor of this very newspaper, and dubbed ‘The Face of ‘66”, Twiggy Lawson was the world’s first supermodel.
Written and directed by Ben Elton, this is far more than a jukebox musical tribute to the Neasden-born Lesley Hornby. Exploding onto the stage in a photographer’s flash of white light the show kicks up a storm from the start.
Twiggy tells her own story from the present, going back through her early family history, her mum’s mental illness, her school days when she was body shamed by boys and her naive relationship with self-styled ‘Svengali’ Justin de Villeneuve aka Nigel.
The narrative romps along, driven as much by the songs selected not just for evocation of the period but also their lyrical relevance – I’m A Believer, Bony Moronie, Downtown, The In Crowd – played by a live band and sung by a sterling cast led by Elena Skye as Twigs herself.
Blessed with a strong singing voice, Skye gets Twiggy’s Cockney-ish accent and undercover feistiness just right.
Elton organizes the material – much of it Twiggy’s own words – into a show that dives more deeply into the subject’s life than most, including the highs, the lows and all ports in between.
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On a simple set consisting of the white roll of a fashion photographer’s studio and a series of screens on which are projected streets, archive film clips and fashion photos, her story exposes her vulnerability as well as her natural instinct and intelligence, epitomized by a TV clip when she turned the tables on a despicable Woody Allen who tried to humiliate her.
The two major – and disastrous – love affairs of her earlier years – she was 15 when she met the 33 year old Villeneuve (Matt Corner) and 22 when she fell for 43 year-old TV cowboy Michael Witney (Darren Day) – are even more shocking now.
She makes no excuses or apologies for her behaviour, simply telling it like it was; the Sixties was a foreign country where they did things differently.
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Commentating throughout are her two besties – potty-mouthed Irish girl Cindy (Aoife Dunne) and Kay (AJ King-Yombo) – who deliver pointed remarks on outmoded values, class prejudice, sexism and men.
Hats off to Hannah-Jane Fox as Twiggy’s Mum, Nell, and the versatile Steven Sirlin as her Dad and also Melvyn Bragg, David Frost and Woody Allen.
Elton’s direction is assured and occasionally inspired though he overplays the political proselytising from time to time.
It’s a minor criticism but it is unnecessary to tell people what to think when you have so successfully conveyed the fossilized attitudes of the past.
That aside, it’s an absolute stonker.
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