Review: Le Gateau Chocolat
He found a home and a much bigger audience when he joined annual Roundhouse jamboree La Soirée – which, in turn, has helped to introduce him to international audiences. In the last 12 months alone, he’s performed in cities as far afield as Chicago, Melbourne and Wroclaw (Poland). This makes in entirely fitting that he should not take the next step, rewarding those who fancy a bigger mouthful of Le Gateau with his first London solo show. And what better venue that Southwark’s intimate Menier Chocolate Factory?
The self-titled show, Le Gateau Chocolat (which has already played in Edinburgh and Australia), is clearly designed to act as an introduction – or a raison d’etre, if you like. For those unfamiliar, Le Gateau is a large, bearded, late-twentysomething gay man of Nigerian heritage. He possesses a stunning singing voice, dons drag (of the Jonny Woo/Taylor Mac variety), wraps his body in an amazing technicolour selection of Lycra, and treats the audience to a diverse selection of songs – taking in everything from indie rock and blues to opera and show tunes. When not singing, he offers some glimpse into his life and philosophies. Why? Well, as Le Gateau pertinently points out, “why” shouldn’t be the question. Instead, one should always simply ask, “Why not?”.
Backed by four musicians, Chocolat moves across a deliberately gaudy but simple set – a clothing rail stuffed with costumes and a make-up table allowing for him to change, transform and flirt between front-of-stage and backstage personas. Highlights of the show includes the likes of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ (“Britain’s Got Talent write to me every year asking me to enter… No thanks!”), ‘Streisand’s ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’, Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, a stirring ‘Old Man River’ from Showboat and a climactic Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’. If some of his life philosophies are a little well worn (“Dance like no-one’s watching you!”), others are pure Chocolat (“Fuck like you’re being filmed!”), while unexpected pathos comes in his tales of family life in Nigeria – his mother still does not know her son is gay, while an estranged father shows little interest in maintaining regular contact.
There are not many performers on the London cabaret scene that can stretch their shtick out to 80 minutes, but thanks to an impressive pair of lungs, a heart worn boldly and proudly on its star’s Lycra-clad sleeve, and a smattering of audience participation, Le Gateau Chocolat never drags (if you’ll excuse the pun). Chocolat mockingly refers to himself as an “asshole”, reclaiming the word of as a term of endearment. If so, he’s the most beautiful asshole gracing the London stage at the moment. Catch the show while you can. David Hudson
Le Gateau Chocolat at the Menier Chocolate Factory, from 13-26 August 2012. Tickets £19.50, or £27 meal deal (including two-course meal before the show). www.menierchocolatefactory.com
Posted: 17 August 2012