London Festival of Cabaret 2014: Le Gateau Chocolat: Black at Soho Theatre
A frequent performer at the La Soiree variety show and well known for his glittering, grandiose cabaret performances, Le Gateau Chocolat’s striking appearance and prodigious voice have carved him a formidable place in the absurd and eccentric world of drag entertainment.
Chocolat’s latest show moves away from the zany cabaret scene where he made his name, instead delving beneath the wild costume and thick make-up to explore his upbringing, his influences, his dreams and his blackness. Black here is more than a colour “as evidenced” says Chocolat in “never feeling blacker than growing up in Nigeria” – black is a state of mind, a metaphor and a concept in which we can all find some sort of union.
Just as Chocolat himself is a concoction of contrasting emotions, tastes and values, Black is a performance combining a wealth of diverse elements. From the deceptively colourful cartoon of “Little Black” – Chocolat’s childhood self – who suffers disappointments on the way to achieving his dreams, to comedy sketches advising one how to not look fat, brash musical numbers, opera and poignant autobiographical voiceovers, the show’s contradictory elements at first appear to jar yet slowly combine into a perfectly complete picture.
Chocolat’s mix of pastiche, comedy and affecting autobiography allows us a glimpse into an alienated, unconventional life without hyperbole or exaggerated pathos. It is through music that Chocolat really shines, delivering a programme of mixed musical genres and tempos. His rendition of Wagner is utterly captivating, demonstrating his superb technical abilities and showing off his rich baritone, which resonates in strong, velvety peals. Billy Holiday’s Strange Fruit is delivered through low, rumbling vibrato to harrowing effect, while Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair ethereally describes Chocolat’s experiences of painful, unrequited love. Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody is transformed into a heart-wrenchingly sombre ballad of lost hope and failed dreams.
Black is an impeccably constructed, challenging and unique performance. Written in memory of two of Chocolat’s friends who were so plagued by their inability to fit in that they turned to suicide, Black is at both an epitaph and beacon of hope expressing the universal humanity that lies beneath eccentricity and difference – for, as Chocolat declares: “We are human first and have all been black at some point.”
Le Gateau Chocolat: Black is on at the Soho Theatre until 24th May 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
London Festival of Cabaret 2014 is on until 22nd May 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Le Gateau Chocolat: Black here: