Hall plays one of his most atypical roles yet in Lazarus, an adaptation of Walter Tevis’s 1963 novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with a script cowritten by Enda Walsh and direction by Belgian visionary Ivo van Hove. Not only is Hall tackling the character David Bowie nailed in Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film adaptation, but he’s also singing a selection of Bowie songs, including some that were written specifically for the stage show and have yet to be performed in public by anyone—even Ziggy Stardust himself.
Hall admits that it’s all slightly surreal. “I met him probably a month or so before we started rehearsals and sang through most of my stuff,” he says of working with Bowie. “And it was a very heady experience to sing Bowie songs in an East Village apartment for Bowie. I had to turn off a part of my brain just to keep my head about me.”
As unnerving as that proposition might seem, Hall says that the rock icon’s been remarkably easy to collaborate with. “He’s very supportive and enthusiastic,” says Hall. “This is a new experience for him. I’m sure people have been enticing him to do something like this for years. Having him there at our little run-through, sitting front and center—it was somewhat nerve-racking, but in a way, it’s nice. What more is there to fear?”
Despite working from the same source material as the film, not to mention Bowie’s involvement, Hall insists that Lazarus will be “its own organism.” The play picks up with Newton where the movie left him, well after he gave up on his mission to bring Earth’s water to his own drought-stricken planet and succumbed to the sad, decadent lifestyle afforded to him by Earth’s market for alien technology. “A great number of years have passed,” says Hall, “and he’s in a state of self-imposed exile, in a world that he meant only to visit and can’t leave, and is in a bit of a prison of his own making, a prison of his own mind.”
A one-percenter from outer space might seem like a tough sell to an audience, but Newton’s a far more relatable character than his traits might suggest. “The name of the film is The Man Who Fell to Earth,” points out Hall, “not The Alien Who Fell to Earth. He comes to planet Earth and falls victim to appetites and ego and longings that are fundamental to any human’s experience. He’s simultaneously singular and an everyman.”