… a word from Amanda

Welcome back to Amanda Zips It Up

I’m back in the big smoke briefly, after reluctantly leaving my Balearic bolthole to attend Jean Paul Gaultier: Fashion Freak Show at Camden’s Roundhouse theatre, which was a fabulous fashion fiesta of fabric and flesh, well worth flying home for.

JPG’s autobiographical cabaret is stunning throughout, showcasing the best music and fashion, charting the life of the designer with plenty of raunchy boy on boy, girl on girl and nude action.

Jean Paul Gaultier has found the perfect format for this autobiography. A grand, genderqueer, tits-out revue in the tradition of the Folies Bérgere, where this show ran in Paris, prior to its London debut. As a piece of catwalk spectacle, it’s a roaring success. 

The costumes are so staggering in their originality, wit and construction, they outshine everything else on the stage. And in this big-budget production, with its towering screens and 18-strong cast, there’s always a lot going on.

Written and directed by Gaultier (who isn’t in it unfortunately), the show’s structure is loosely chronological. We begin with a surreal surgical scene – doctors in silk organza ‘rubber gloves’ – projected onto a huge screen. A young Jean Paul is sewing that iconic, conical bra on to his beloved teddy bear. Then, the screen lifts and a troupe of teddies emerge for an epic dance number. Amidst the faux fur and glitter, Maud’Amour, who acts as a sort of MC for the show, is clad in a bear suit with ‘fur’ made of real feathers, and a silk corset.

Video sketches set the scene between music and dance performances.

These scenes explore the designer’s inspirations, career triumphs and even personal tragedies, like his partner dying of AIDS.

Enhanced by a Nile Rodgers-curated soundtrack of camp disco bangers, from Grace Jones’s ‘Nightclubbing’ to his own Chic hit ‘Le Freak’, the music throughout is brilliant. Gaultier has dressed Kylie and Madonna, so the conical bra is everywhere. But it’s JPG’s signature look, featuring the French style blue and white striped Bretton T-Shirt worn with the red kilt / Levi 501s and Dr Martin’s Boots, that I loved the most.

Seeing inside the mind of Gaultier’s universe of muscled sailor boys, punks, nude curvaceous women and extravagant aliens embodied by talented dancers and models is what this show is all about. It’s a chance to explore the creations of a genius up-close and in motion, exactly as their creator intended. Real catwalk shows are intimidating. This was warm, inclusive and lots of fun. Thoroughly recommended if you’re in London over the summer.

Enjoy this instalment of AZIU as we celebrate England winning the Euros – the girls brought it home.