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fashion telegraph 15 jan 2002

Taboo - an Eighties costume drama

Boy George has set his clubbing heyday to music. Julia Robson reports

BY George, he's got it. Even without the Geisha white foundation and Egyptian kohl eyeliner, Euan Morton's eyes, pre-Raphaelite nose and dimpled chin bear more than a passing resemblance to those of the Eighties icon Boy George.
Euan as George
Euan wears the original Dexter Wong coat Boy George wore in the video for Victims

This explains why the unknown 24-year-old from Bo'ness, near Edinburgh, landed the role of George in Taboo, a musical that opens in London at the end of this month. Written by Mark Davies-Markham, writer of This Life, it centres on the notorious nightclub which drew the New Romantic movement - and Boy George - away from the suburbs and into fashion folklore.
Boy George wrote the music and lyrics, and was responsible for bringing the production from workshop stage to the West End. "It's a postcard of that period," he says, backstage at the hip new theatre the Venue. "It's not my biography. I wasn't interested in doing a nostalgia trip, like Buddy."
Now 40, with cropped, greying hair and no make-up, he looks rugged, handsome even. His figure - hidden under an army jacket, fleece and jeans - is trim. If he weren't so tall, he probably wouldn't stand out in a crowd any more.
"It's a bit weird looking at Euan," he says, shooting a glance at the actor, who has learnt George's signature mincing moves by watching Culture Club videos. Euan was only five when the band was at its peak, but "my mum was a huge fan," he says, teasing his doppelganger.
"The producer originally wanted to employ a typical theatrical costume designer," says George. "But I knew Mick Nicholls [a Taboo regular who collaborated on George's stage costumes] was the only one who'd get it right. Costumes are crucial."
"The show costumes came together in three months," explains Nicholls. "We couldn't find Westwood pirate pieces - which everyone wore - so we had to make some. Vivienne herself even made us up a few pairs of Eighties 'hammer head' shoes."
"Unfortunately, I chucked out 40 sacks of my Eighties clothes four years ago when I came out of therapy," says George. "I gave them to a charity shop in Welling. I didn't want to do an 'Elton'."
Boy George
Boy George at the Venue

George explains how his look developed: "In the early days, we lived hand to mouth and expressed ourselves through our clothes. Our style grew out of not having any money. We were the first to customise, out of necessity.
"The Geisha look came out of some cheap shop in Chinatown. The trimmings came from Soho fabric shops. One morning in 1979, we came out of Blitz nightclub and went past Charles Fox, a theatrical costumiers, and a sale was on. That started a dozen looks. The 'Boadicea' look was made out of a sheet that I wore on a shopping trip to Selfridges with Marilyn."
Original items worn by Morton in the show include an Antony Price snakeskin jacket ("I stole it from Steve Strange"); a Dexter Wong jacket; some "Boy" jackets and a Rachel Auburn jacket.
"David Bowie inspired most of my clothes, along with electro bands like Fad Gadget, Cabaret Voltaire and Human League, who experimented with sexuality," George says. "Marilyn and I used to get thrown out of drag clubs because we looked too much like girls.

Euan in Taboo
Costume call: the bondage trousers [left] are a fake Burberry check;
the denim beret [centre] was one of Boy George's own;
Euan in Taboo [right] dresses as George in his 'Boadicea' outfit

"Nowadays, I can't be bothered to dress up. If I'm going to a straight club, I wear lots of make-up, but gays have become straighter than straights. In Taboo - just like in the Eighties - the boys get to wear the best outfits."
* Taboo opens on January 29 at the Venue, London W1. Box office: 0870 899 3335

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