Part cabaret, part catwalk show, designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s stage autobiography is massively self-indulgent but also kind of fabulous.
It’s basically two hours of hot-bodied dancer-singer-exhibitionists posing and vogueing in his hyper-sexualised, gender-bending creations, supposedly to show that “everyone eez byoodeefool”. Um, what’s not to like? Both JPG and his Fashion Freak Show — FFS! — may be absurd but they undoubtedly add to the gaiety of nations.
A rough arc of his life is sketched out in frantic dance routines interspersed with video interludes to a superb soundtrack by Nile Rodgers. JPG put a conical bra on his teddy at seven and would later put one on Madonna. Originally employed by Pierre Cardin, he discovered his own signature style mixing kink, camp and glamour in the Eighties. His most famous collections are referenced but his later work for Hermès and his designs for films barely merit a mention. He also promoted ethnic and bodily diversity, which is echoed here in the casting. Sort of.
The show has been imported from the Folies Bergère in Paris with little concession made to British audiences. Few of the video cameos will be familiar outside France or fashion circles, with the exception of actresses Catherine Deneuve and Rossy de Palma. But his love of London shines through. Punk was an influence, as was the Queen. Her Majesty is here played on screen by Antoine de Caunes, JPG’s co-host on the Nineties TV show Eurotrash.
Gaultier is now 67 and his designs, like Madonna’s boobs, no longer seem as outrageous as they once were. But the impish spirit that led him to record a dance single in 1988, and to collaborate with streetwear brand Supreme this year, remains. “Have fun, be free,” he twinkled from the stage last night, wearing a feather headdress. This raucous frocky horror show is certainly fun.
Until August 2 (020 3879 9555, southbankcentre.co.uk)