THERE were eerie moments, during this poignant telling of Marc Bolan's rise to stardom, when the rock legend appeared to predict his own demise.

When asked in an interview: "Where do you see yourself in 30 years time?" a shadow fell across Bolan's face as he said quietly: "I don't think I'll live that long." Musing on the death of his "live fast, die young" hero, James Dean, he thought he'd be more likely to end his life in a Mini than a Porsche.

Lively musical 20th Century Boy is a compelling journey through Bolan's life, from his day-dreaming teenage years in early 60s east London to becoming the UK's biggest rock star - the "bigger than the Beatles" electric warrior, glam king, poet and pin-up - before his death, aged 29, in September, 1977, in a Mini that hit a tree.

The show opened with Bolan addressing us from the grave. The boy who wanted to be bigger than Elvis wonders if anyone still cares about him or his music. Four decades after his death, the songs of Bolan and his band T Rex have a significant place in British pop culture heritage, influencing generations of music-makers.

Bio-musicals can be a bit corny, often veering into a rather forced "here's a song that will explain this part of my life" scenario. But this show manages to rise above that. It doesn't pull any punches in its depiction of Bolan's flaws; his petulance, his boasting - "yeah, Lennon/Bowie/Stevie Wonder is a good friend of mine" - and his inability to function without a woman in his life, be it his adoring mother, his devoted wife or his loving girlfriend. And it lays bare the frustrations of his US tour and his failure to crack the American charts.

It exposes myths and unveils significant moments, from trippy nights in Paris when Bolan encounters an ethereal creature with a white face and corkscrew curls to Tony Visconti introducing him to the electric guitar. The action races through Bolan's short life - jamming with bongos, putting the band together, Top of the Pops, fan mania and the seedy side of life on the road - with cracking performances of his classics, including Metal Guru, Get It On, Jeepster, Children of the Revolution, Ride a White Swan and 20th Century Boy.

At the heart of the show is a mesmerising performance by George Maguire. He's not the spitting image of Bolan, but he captured his voice, moves and spirit beautifully, and was a riot of energy, taking centre stage the whole time. From a starstruck teenager to an off-the-rails rock god, this was a terrific performance spanning Bolan's formative and chart-topping years. Strong performances too from Derek Hagen as both Tony Visconti and Simon Napier-Bell, Sarah Moss as Bolan's wife, June Child, Ellena Vincent as Gloria Jones, mother of his son, Amy Rhiannon Worth as his mother, Phyllis Feld, and Matthew Ashcroft as his sideman, Mickey Finn.

As the cast sang a haunting refrain from Dandy in the Underworld, we were reminded of the remarkable legacy of this otherworldly and very British superstar. Runs until Saturday.