I don’t know much about fashion, but I was intrigued to find out if this self-penned celebration of the life of iconic designer Jean Paul Gaultier would speak to me as a “civilian”, as it were. And it certainly did. Fashion Freak Show is an all-singing, all-dancing multimedia entertainment that makes perfect theatrical sense to someone like me who doesn’t know his raglan sleeves from his seersucker.
One thing I did know is that Gaultier was responsible for Madonna’s pointy bras. However, we discover early on in the show that Ms Ciccone was not the first to be adorned with the design: much earlier, the little Gaultier tried it out as a child on his teddy bear Nana. This information is the inspiration for the first of several joyfully choreographed dance sequences as multiple bears cavort about the Roundhouse stage.
The evolution of Gaultier’s career is traced with a worshipful but humorous style. A brilliant cast of dancers, singers and circus performers invest every number with boundless enthusiasm and skill, and the pace is gloriously frenetic.
Alongside the live action are pre-filmed elements projected onto a multitude of screens that fly on and off the stage in perfect synchronicity. It’s all incredibly slick, timed to within a nanosecond, making it all extremely impressive.
Naturally, the costumes are dazzling. Some recreate Gaultier’s catwalk triumphs, others illustrate personal themes such as a trio of conjoined outfits that artfully illuminate both the constrictive and unifying properties of love.
The second half of the show isn’t quite so narrative-led, but it’s no less visually ravishing. I guess if you look this good it doesn’t really matter what you’re saying.
Gaultier himself made a personal appearance at the curtain call to effuse about his love of London and UK culture. It was a sweet end to a dynamic extravaganza of creativity.
Written by: Jean Paul Gaultier and Raphaël Cioffi
Directed by: Jean Paul Gaultier and Toni Marshall
Choreography by: Marion Motin
Music produced and directed by: Nile Rodgers
Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show plays at Roundhouse until 28 August 2022. Further information and bookings can be found here.