THEATRE - Do You Nomi, at the Tron

IT IS 30 years since his tragic death, but mystery still surrounds 1980s music star Klaus Nomi.

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Drew Taylor, front, as Klaus Nomi and Laurie Brown as David Bowie
Drew Taylor, front, as Klaus Nomi and Laurie Brown as David Bowie

The German- born performer rose to fame in the New Wave era before he was struck down by the then new and much misunderstood Aids virus, when he was 39.

Now his story is being retold in a dance and theatrical collaboration by award-winning director Grant Smeaton and choreographer Alan Grieg.

Do You Nomi? will be staged at the Tron Theatre next Wednesday and Thursday.

Grant, 51, from Finnieston, said: "Nomi died in 1983 and he is still an enigma, there is still not a huge amount written about him or known about him.

"But people who were in the know at the time, even in Glasgow, knew of Klaus Nomi.

"He was well loved by punks and New Wave people and even opera people.

"He had this really broad appeal, it was a cult appeal and it still is, but he is a fascinating character."

Do You Nomi? tells the story of Nomi, played by Glasgow-based actor Drew Taylor, from his move to New York as a young man, through his rise to fame in the avant-garde music scene, when he came to the attention of music legend David Bowie, through to his tragic early death.

The production combines theatre, dance and dialogue with Eighties music, as well as showcasing Nomi's outlandish stage costumes.

The four-strong cast, two actors and two dancers, weave a story which is both a straightforward journey and an abstract performance.

It touches on the darker side of the post-Cold War era, with the ever-present threat of nuclear apocalypse.

Grant, who won a Herald Angel Award in 2010, said: "At that time, throughout the end period of the Cold War and Reagan and Thatcher, there was a sense that the world was going to end because of this nuclear threat. I remember it myself, that was part of what Klaus Nomi's otherworldliness was trying to be an escape from.

"[In the piece] we are picking up on his talent, it is about the time that he lived in as well, it is very much about those times and the opportunities that were available to him them and his discovery of himself."

Nomi moved to New York in the early Seventies and became involved in the avante-garde scene in the city.

He later died of Aids, at a time when the virus was a frightening and unknown problem associated with gay men.

The production does not shy away from this side of his life, and the struggle he had as a gay man living at that time, but it is, Grant says, a celebration of what he achieved and the influence he had.

Grant said: "He was quite an iconic character from a period of the late Seventies and early Eighties. It was at that time before pop stars became commodified.

"Through the Eighties, pop stars started becoming much more packaged and, I think, that period from punk times into New Wave, around about 1983, was a very fertile time for musical artists and experimentation and Klaus Nomi's generation was the last of that.

"He also lived through a period of change, he was the first person I had ever heard of who had died from Aids.

"It was very soon after he contracted the virus, it was a shock because he was in his 30s, and it was at that time when Aids was very misunderstood and unknown.

"It is about individualism, I think Klaus was a very shy person although he had an incredible talent, he had an amazing operatic voice.

"But he was small and I think he was bullied in his younger life, he was a gay man and living through that time was difficult for him, the way he was, so he escaped to New York, because he felt that was somewhere he could feel safe and become the person he wanted to be.

"From there his stage persona became his mask to express himself."

Grant was a fan of Nomi's when he first burst onto the music scene, and he still listens to his music.

"I still listen to Klaus Nomi music, his voice still fascinates me and his whole personality fascinates me, I don't think we will ever get to the root of the enigma, but that is what is fascinating about the story," he says.

l Do You Nomi? is on at the Tron Theatre on Wednesday, February 20 and Thursday, February 21 at 7.45pm.

Tickets cost £12/£7. To book call 0141 552 4267 or visit www.tron.co.uk

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