In 2018 Jeanne Pratt’s The Production Company scored a major win for Melbourne. The company acquired the rights to David Bowie’s final work ‘Lazarus’.
The original production of ‘Lazarus’ premiered in New York in December 2015. Bowie attended. It was the last time he was seen in public before his passing three weeks later.
Chris Ryan, who previously starred in The Production Company’s ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder’, has the starring role of Newton, a continuation of Bowie’s role in the 1976 film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’.
“We rehearsed Gentlemen’s Guide in two weeks but we have a little more time on this one,” Chris Ryan tells Noise11.com. “It is incredible work but it’s different to anything I have ever encountered. It is a bit like a Bowie song, jagged and eclectic. There are more elements that come into it with the video. We have a little more time with this one to get it right.
Chris says ‘Lazarus’ picks up the story of ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ 40 years later. “He is still stuck on Earth. He has climbed the social ladder and has become an incredibly successful businessman in New York. The love of his life Mary-Lou has long since gone. He is torn between his Earthly heartbreak with Mary-Lou and his longing to return to a more peaceful home in the stars. He is kind of trapped. He is sitting in his apartment and many years have passed. He can’t really die. He has had all the experiments done to him and now he is drinking himself into a stupor. He is at this moment of complete stagnation and not knowing what to do”.
“It is interesting in the fact that it is the last thing Bowie wrote before he died,” Chris says. “It is a meditation on death and change and how we face those sorts of things. It’s a piece people bring a lot into themselves. You can read many things into it in many ways. There is a reading that this man is already dead, or he is approaching death. He literally is an alien trying to return home. Like a good Bowie song, there are lots of angles you can look at it from”.
The New York premiere of Lazarus was the last thing Bowie attended. “I think it was his last public appearance,” Chris says. “It is quite an amazing thing. I heard a story that he was backstage at the previews, quite sick and nobody knew. There are stories he collapsed backstage. I think those people in the production close to him were aware. You listen to the songs ‘Blackstar’ and ‘Lazarus’. You watch that film-clip now and go ‘wow’. This show as well, to think he was someone who could create incredible stuff out of his own death”.
“Lazarus’ also premiered the last of Bowie’s new music. “‘No Plan’ is a beautiful song,” Chris says. “It is haunting. There is a character who comes to Newton in the shape of this teenage girl and offers him hope. It’s at a moment in the show just after ‘Changes’ has been sung. This is playing out in his head. A man who has been stuck and sheltered from the world. This girl sings this pure song about his state of mind about this man staring out over New York. It is a haunting beautiful song about nothing. You don’t know where you are headed, where you have been, what it’s all about. It is just a simple song”.
Chris sings the title track which was first heard of Bowie’s last album ‘Blackstar’. “Lazarus is the first song of the show. Even though it’s the first song on ‘Blackstar’ it was written for this show. It is just Newton telling us, the audience, where he is at. He came to New York, used up all his money and he is longing to be free. He is longing to transcend the Earth”.
The Production Company performance of Lazarus’ will run for strictly limited 27 performances only at The Playhouse at Melbourne Arts Centre, finishing on 9 June.