Vive la Difference! is all about transformation, yet is presented in such a way as to slow the audience’s heartbeat—alongside the metamorphosis of costume, mood and music—without a hint of cynicism or egotistical bravado. This is, simply, Thierry Alexandre.
The odd venue—a stark, vaulted, cathedral-like space—is somehow suited to Alexandre’s performance, which is part Butoh, part living art. He has Tilda Swinton’s looks and grace, combined with Terry Gilliam’s sense of the comic absurd.
It opens with a black shroud moving eerily about the stage, like a covered saint paraded for a solemn religious high day, which then transforms into a costume that cleverly becomes both set and character.
Movements are small, slight, twisted—the agony and relief of the change present Alexandre as fallen angel; a statuesque form melting into his dress like some Pompeiian caught in molten lava flow. Mixing in some collusive humour, he adds Butoh to Tango to equal dramatic fabulousness. The sensuous striptease challenges perceptions of eroticism; he sheds his dress as tenderly as a lover, laying bare his soul in the process. A poignant song is delivered in a way that seems to channel the dark poeticism of the late Lou Reed. The finale is oddly moving: triumphant in its vulnerability.
After the performance someone says, ‘I knew it would be beautiful; I had no idea it could be this mesmerising.’ Alexandre’s honest and fearless celebration of humanity is a priceless treasure set within the gargantuan machine of the Fringe.