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the guardian 23 may 2002


3 stars
Venue, London

Lyn Gardner

"One little secret that I'd like to share with you." Boy George leans conspiratorially into the audience. "I'm not a real actor, you know." Small pause. "But then neither is Madonna." Of course Boy George is an actor. His whole life has been a performance and never more so than his early adult years as an icon of the 1980s style and pop movement known as the New Romantics whose motto was never dress down when you can dress up.
Now Boy George has penned the lyrics and music - although not the dog of a plot - for a jaunty evening that relives the New Romantic era and in the process rather agreeably bridges the gap between the tired old West End musical and the pop or rock musical. It does of course feature himself, or rather an actor (Euan Morton, very good and much prettier than the real George ever was) playing him. Boy George himself takes on the role of Leigh Bowery, the Australian-born designer, artist and Lucian Freud model, a man who also knew there was an art to putting on a performance. There is a lovely moment when Bowery, already stricken with the Aids that was to eventually kill him, stands as a living exhibit in the window of a Bond Street art gallery and sings: "I am art; you are parody". Bowery resembled a beautiful, exotic slug. Boy George gets the look and flamboyant manner just right, but always sounds too Eltham.
Who cares, the New Romantics were always about style over substance. This could so easily have been a vanity project, but while there is plenty of narcissism and self loathing on view as the characters flutter too close to the bright lights, get their wings burned and crash so spectacularly to the ground that most wouldn't get on the guest list to their own funerals, the evening is sufficiently light and witty and so deliciously bitchy and ironic that you cannot help warming to it. It also has a heart, that rather suggests that Boy George was not just a New Romantic, but is a romantic through and through.

Booking until September 14. Box office: 0870 899 3335.

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