Enda Walsh says working with Bowie on Broadway hit Lazarus was a ‘ridiculous honour’

Irish playwright Enda Walsh has called his experience working with David Bowie on the musical Lazarus, one of the last works Bowie completed before his death in January, a “ridiculous honour,” and said he was aware of the graveness of Bowie’s illness throughout their collaboration.

Enda Walsh says working with Bowie on Broadway hit Lazarus was a ‘ridiculous honour’

“It was a year and a half of really wonderful, open collaboration,” Walsh told the Irish Examiner about the play, which opened at New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan last December.

“He was an extremely generous, very, very funny man. And to make something like Lazarus, which sort of knocked people, which had people going, ‘What the hell is this?’ That was amazing. He wanted to push the form of it and how it was going to come at the audience.”

Lazarus is a sequel to the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth, which starred Bowie as an alien. Hailed by The New York Times as a “great-sounding, great-looking, and mind-numbing new musical”, it sold out its entire run within hours of tickets going on sale.

Michael C Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso in the Broadway smash hit ‘Lazarus’. Picture: Jan Versweyveld
Michael C Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso in the Broadway smash hit ‘Lazarus’. Picture: Jan Versweyveld

In retrospect, and like the album that followed, Black Star, it contained clear intimations of Bowie’s mortality, with the title tune opening with the words, “Look up here, I’m in heaven. I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”

Walsh, who was speaking to the Irish Examiner to mark the 25th anniversary of Corcadorca, the Cork theatre company that produced his breakthrough play, Disco Pigs, in 1996, said Lazarus was “a hugely personal piece for David, so to be involved in writing that with him was a ridiculous honour”.

Walsh, who moved to London more than a decade ago after several years working with Corcadorca in Cork, said he knew “from the very beginning” how seriously ill Bowie was. “We all just got on with it,” he said.

“He was very present all the way through. He was in and out of rehearsals, we were chatting on the phone. It’s ridiculous saying this, but as soon as I met him, he had this familiar energy. I knew I was going to get on with this person. He was really funny. I thought, yeah, we’ll be able to take the piss out of one another as we work, and very quickly I forgot who I was working with.

“He came to previews and the opening night,” said Walsh, “but at that stage he was very, very sick. So it was really sad.”

Another Bowie link to a Corcadorca alumnus emerged recently when it was revealed the late singer had sent Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy pictures of himself dressed up as the Cork actor’s character, Thomas Shelby. “He sent a photo of himself with razor blades in his cap to Cillian about a year ago,” Steven Knight, creator of the BBC series, told the Radio Times. “I got in touch with his people who came back straight away and said he was a big, big fan.”

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