Malcolm McLaren | Theatre review

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

When Malcolm McLaren opened World's End on the King's Road in 1980, the shop had a steeply raked floor – "because you don't want to be straight!" There's no danger of anyone thinking McLaren is straight. This one-off fringe event sees the Sex Pistols impresario reflect on his life and career up to and including punk. He stands accused, he says, of charlatanism and of turning popular culture into a cheap marketing gimmick. "And I'm here to prove," he deadpans, "that all that is absolutely true."

McLaren's impish sensibility is the star here. A smile plays around his lips, but never breaks, as he lays into the "culture of lies" that was post-war Britain, and persuades us that his success was an unwelcome by-product of seeking failure. By this account, opening his King's Road boutique and selling ripped, dirty clothes was a Situationist prank: "I knew that no one, but no one, was going to buy them," he says, slyly.

His story is sometimes ponderously told; and some of McLaren's sentences tie themselves in knots. But it's easy to be seduced by his belief that shock and charlatanism is a legitimate response to the homogenising mainstream. His personality may be an artful construct: disconnected, disingenuous, slightly camp. But the hymn to authenticity seems sincere, and his hatred of fakery unmistakable.

Today we live in a culture of corporatised cliche, says McLaren. Blair was "the first karaoke prime minister", and "most artists try and authenticate the karaoke". The aesthetic disgust is both bracing and ironic.


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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