Boy George's award-winning musical Taboo brings to life a decadent decade; a vibrant era of colourful dreams, the New Romantics movement, dazzling fashion, and the beginning of pop culture, as we know it today. In response to the political domination of Margaret Thatcher, riots in Brixton and Toxteth, mass unemployment and one of the worst recessions Britain had ever seen, the 1980s exploded into a melting pot of creativity and innovation.
Featuring 16 brand new songs alongside "Do you really want to hurt me" and "Karma Chameleon" this witty and entertaining musical takes on the life, times and styles of the innovators who shaped and defined the face of the decade. A love story of passion, ambition and betrayal unfolds alongside the journey of Boy George's rise and fall from international stardom.
About the original West End Taboo
How did the idea for Taboo come about ?
"I was approached about a year and a bit ago by a man called Chris Renshaw who has worked with Elaine Page and opera. He came to me on a barge on a freezing cold night on the Thames and said : "Do you want to do a musical about your life ?" and I said "No". And then he said "Would you like to do a musical that involves yourself and other characters from the early 80s period ?" and that excited me much more because… enough about me !" (Boy George
, Press Conference at the Venue, April 25th 2002)
What is it about ?
"It’s about a collection of very colourful characters from the New Romantic period, people like Steve Strange, Marilyn, Leigh Bowery, Philip Sallon, people that kind of shaped my mad existence . I didn’t just want it to be about me, I didn’t want it to be a Mamma Mia type show, I wanted to write a new score and give those people a voice." (Boy George, Liquid News, BBC, February 2002)
"We’re merciless with everyone, we’re merciless with me, it’s very self-depreciating. I think it’s really telling how it was because at that time there was a bunch of characters who were all from dysfunctional families. They sort of gravitated towards the West End of London, the bright lights of London and all of us wanted to be noticed. There’s a saying "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." You have to take that road, just be careful not to take the wrong turning." (Boy George, From Bo'ness to Boy George, BBC Scotland, January 2002)
"It’s about rebirth really, it’s about having a second chance and learning from your past mistakes. And also I guess the main thing is you’re born into this family but you don’t necessarily have to stay within that family, we can reject it and create our own." (Mark Davies, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
Where does the name come from?
Taboo the musical takes its name from Taboo the club, opened by Leigh Bowery - Australian designer, artist and performer - in 1985 following on from success of the infamous New Romantics hot spot the Blitz.
"The Blitz was sort of late 70s early 80s and Taboo kind of came about in the mid 80s, just before acid house. It was just an excuse to be as excessive as possible, it was a time of immense hedonism, self-destructiveness – I mean a lof of people died – a lot of drug-taking, sex in the toilets... It was just a madhouse !" (Boy George, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
A semi-autobiographical musical
Although Taboo is largely inspired from Boy George's biography - in the sense that the storyline follows his rise, fall and rebirth - certain liberties have been taken with the real story. But as George said: "It’s a sort of postcard of that period without being a documentary, we’re not doing a documentary. There are people who are going to be left out, there are going to be people who aren’t going to be mentioned, but I’m trying to deal with the people that I think made the biggest impacts." (Boy George, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
Mark Davies, who wrote the book for the original London production, goes even further when he describes Taboo as "a fictional story" with "real incidents from real life peppered throughout." (Mark Davies, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
Euan and Taboo
Throughout July and August 2001, hundreds of young actors were auditioned in London, to find a young Boy George and other key characters. How did Euan get the role ?
It was Euan's mum who read about the audition in a newspaper: "I always buy the Stage newspaper, always have done since he went to London. I happened to see an advert in it that Boy George was looking for people for this and I also mentioned to him [Euan]: 'Why don’t you go for something like that, you would be good at doing that'." (Euan's Mum, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
In the early workshop Euan played another character called Trojan, it was only later that he was asked to audition for Boy George: "It has nothing to do with me that Euan is playing me. My oldest friend Philip came along to the workshop. Euan was actually playing another character and Philip, who is possibly the most opiniated person I have ever met in my entire life just grabbed me at the end of the workshop and said: 'That boy there ...is...you.' His actual words were: 'He's the Judy Garland of the workshop. He has incredible vulnerability, he can sing beautifully, he looks like you when you were 19.' He said : 'You have to have him play you.' and I was like 'OK, let me think about it.' and I kind of watched him and the more I looked the more I thought 'actually he's right'." (Boy George, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
"I got involved in a workshop of the play - and it really was a workshop. Nothing was written. They were writing it in the back room and handing the script out to us. And George was there trying to write music while we waited. But when they were casting they rang me up, said they’d remembered me from the workshop, and asked if I’d audition for George. The most amazing thing was that I only had to do two auditions. You usually have to do hundreds for these kind of jobs. It was unbelievable." (Euan, interview for The Scotsman, January 2002)
When asked what qualities he was looking for in a younger version of himself, George replied:
"I think the most important thing that we were looking for was vulnerability, because I think great performers have vulnerability and a lot of the people that we saw were fantastic but they were kind of slightly arrogant. He [Euan] has that sort of vulnerability, he hides it well, but he has." (Boy George, Liquid News)
Euan and George
"[George] has been really good in the fact that he's not sat down and gone: 'This is how I want you to play me'. He's fully aware that this is interpretation, it's not impersonation, it's an interpretation of him and he's aware of that, he's been really quite free and open with it." (Euan, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
"I was quite nervous about the accent, I was very nervous about wearing the heels and the big costumes but he's so comfortable with himself, he's so comfortable with me doing this piece... you begin to get comfortable doing it." (Euan, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
"I think he's really good. He keeps asking me for videos and I'm like: 'You already ARE me, you don't need to look at videos'. He's so much like me it's frightening."
"I think he is more of a singer than an actor. I think he is a fantastic singer." (Boy George, From Bo'ness to Boy George)
"I feel as a singer he puts me to shame. I have great respect for him." (Boy George, Press Conference at the Venue, April 25th 2002)
How does George feel when he sees Euan playing him onstage ?
"I just sit there and enjoy it. I’m very objective because for me it just seems like another person. That part of my life I’m disconnected from so I watch it very objectively. [...] I’m 40 years old now, Euan’s playing me at 19, it’s just another world." (Boy George, Liquid News)
About the music
The official Taboo CD - released in the UK on October 14th 2002 - features 21 songs, 4 of them performed by Euan:
Stranger In This World
Guttersnipe (duet with Mark McGee playing Marilyn)
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me
Pie In The Sky
Some of the songs on the CD are slightly different from the versions of the London live show: Pie In The Sky was a duet between George (played by Euan) and Billy James (played by Luke Evans and Declan Bennett). In the show Euan also performed 4 more songs:
Pretty Lies (duet with Kim)
The Eyes of Medusa (only the first lines of this unreleased Culture Club song)
Out Of Fashion (George, Steve Strange, Marilyn, Billy James)
Bow Down Mister (with full cast)
Some other songs like Wrong or Telephone Telegram are NOT on the official CD. They were either never performed on stage or only in early versions of Taboo.
When asked which song he thought was the best, music co-writer Kevan Frost said:
"Pie In The Sky without a doubt. It’s one we wrote initially and then changed the tune because I felt it sounded too like one of the others. So George instantly said 'how about this' and started singing, I grabbed the guitar and it came together in about 2 minutes." (Kevan Frost, Gimme a Freak, BBC Choice, February 2002)
"The songs I’ve written are some of the best songs I’ve written in years because there’s a purpose to them. It comes from your heart and that’s why I think it’s so magical. I haven’t been as obsessed about anything like this for a long, long time !" (Boy George, Gimme a Freak)
Awards and nominations
Euan was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical
both at the Whatsonstage
and at the Laurence Olivier
Christopher Renshaw won the Whatsonstage
award for Best Director
Paul Baker won the Laurence Olivier
award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical or Entertainment
From Leicester Square to Broadway
After delighting West End crowds for 15 months, a new version of Taboo starring Euan and Boy George was played at The Plymouth Theatre on Broadway from October 28th, 2003 to February 8th, 2004 when it closed after 16 previews and 100 performances. Read the official press release.
Taboo tour (UK)
From December 2003 to July 2004 Taboo toured the UK. Euan was not part of the tour but his picture was used on some of the flyers and on drink mats amongst other things...
Click on the thumbnails below to view the flyer in high resolution !
Click on the thumbnails below to view the drink mat in high resolution !
Taboo drink mat
Special thanks to Euan. ;)
Taboo in Japan
In late 2005/early 2006 Taboo — West End version — was screened at Japanese movie theatres, starting in Tokyo.
Click on the thumbnails below to view the Japanese flyers in high resolution !
Taboo Japanese flyer 2
(Official Japanese website)
Selection of articles
The Face (1987)
8-page article with a lot of pictures devoted to the REAL Taboo club and to the lives of some of the REAL people who used to go there like Trojan, Leigh Bowery. Learn how Trojan tried to cut his ear off and how nothing could shock them at Taboo. A must-read.
by Paul Webb (18 June 2002)
, an essay by Boy George on Taboo
, Boy George on Taboo
Special thanks to Nobby Clark, www.boygeorgedj.com, www.taboo-unofficial.co.uk and Alison.