Thursday, 25 July 2019

REVIEW: Jean Paul Gaultier: Fashion Freak Show at The Southbank Centre


This summer the Southbank Centre is getting a fashion make over with a twist. Imagine Queer Eye, the runways of 1970s Paris and an endless array of fabrics have a love child, and you have the foundations of Jean Paul Gaultiers new spectacular revue show, making its U.K. debut for thirteen performances only. Direct from its triumphant run at the Folies Bergere in Paris, Fashion Freak Show allows London audiences a chance to encounter a level of quirkiness, sexiness and genius fashion that is unforeseen. 

Eccentric, eclectic and erotic, Jean Paul Gaultier is shaking up London with his scandalous new creation, Fashion Freak Show. The production is an explosive celebration of 50 years of pop culture, all delivered through the eyes of fashion’s infant terror.

We delve into a technicolour live autobiography of Gaultier’s life; from his childhood to his early career. From his greatest works, to his long term, iconic influencers, collaborations and supporters (a lot of whom make a shameless cameo throughout!). Each page of the story contrasting to the last and yet complimenting each other in the grand scale of this bold and stimulating re-enactment unfolding before our eyes. 

Set against an extravagant video wall canvas, Gaultier is surprising audiences yet again, having designed countless exclusive new outfits, all of which are incorporated within an opulent set. 

Having called upon an abundance of extraordinary actors, dancers, circus artists, singers and designers, this fearless cast and crew take the stage by storm, playing outlandish, titillating, libidinous, shockingly beautiful creatures and freaks of nature. Showing no fear, the cast pay homage to some of Gaultier’s most successful runways and creations, as well as showcasing the very best of his brand new designs. 

Credit in particular must be given to the exceptional talents of Thea Hansen, Mounia Nassangar and Jean Paul Gaultier regular Anna Cleveland, each of whom were captivating throughout. That being said, as an ensemble, this cast work tremendously, showing no boundaries in trust, creativity and exploration (at times literally on each other’s bodies...).

From a fashion angle, this production has no limit, with creativity being pushed to levels I haven’t witnessed before. This in particular was highlighted beautifully in the ‘Plastik Fantastik’ section during Act 2, where the textures, dimensions and materials used to create each design were both eye popping and undeniably imaginative. However this was merely a teasing foreplay of what was to come in the form of the productions finale. A classic grand cabaret number worthy of any Moulin Rouge fanatic. Jean Paul Gaultier himself even made an appearance at the end of the finale, delighting long-time fans within the audience. 

Jean Paul Gaultier is a recognised household name and designer. Was I familiar with his work prior to experiencing ‘Fashion Freak Show’? Not particularly, but, this production is a time capsule of wondrous and freakish creativity, allowing supporters to relish in Gaultiers success, and educating new audiences on his life and career. 

At the end of the day, both fashion and art are extremely subjective. Did elements of the production make me question whether Le Freak is Chic? Yes. But surely this is a positive? After all, any creative outlet is supposed to make us challenge the creator’s visions. 

This production is truly a celebration of all things alternative. It’s shocking in all the right ways, and will make any budding designer feel as though Christmas has come early. And with only thirteen chances to do so, why would you miss it?

Review by Adam Tipping

Rating: ★★★★ 

Seat: K35 | Price of Ticket: Tickets available from £30

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