Le Gateau Chocolat: Icons at Soho Theatre
“The art of putting on a mask only to reveal the man behind it.” That’s the art of drag, Le Gateau Chocolat explains in his latest show. Icons bursts the seams of the definition, melding glitzy outfits and powerhouse renditions of pop classics with graver moments including a slave spiritual, Latin choir verses and news soundbites. The effect is a performance that is as profound as it is entertaining.
Le Gateau Chocolat’s stunning baritone voice, the jewel of a very eclectic career, is showcased perfectly here. Covering high-energy, ad-libbed pop to ballads to operatic numbers, its sincerity and warmth make it a treat to hear, not least when the floor-rumbling low notes are cracked out. Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill is beautiful as a slowed down, thoughtful opener. Slave spiritual Lord, How Come Me Here is a moment of pure gravitas, while Meat Loaf’s I Would Do Anything for Love, aided by a wind machine and outrageous wig, is a hysterical highlight. All are accompanied live onstage by a capable keyboardist and guitarist/vocalist.
The wardrobe does not disappoint, spanning lycra leotards, avant-garde hats and a floor-length sequin coat. A pair of goliath false eyelashes have the effect of amplifying Le Gateau’s every coquettish sideways glance, every knowing blink or widening of the eyes. A true professional, each move is flawless, from the sacred stillness of his slower ballads to the unleashed sass of his disco dancing. His presence dwarfs the Soho Downstairs stage.
The mood smoothly transitions between joyful pop and sombre vignettes. There’s the story of the loved one who took his own life, another about the One who got away, and passing mention of the hell that is depression. A soundbite of Barack Obama advocating unity is juxtaposed with Donald Trump’s infamous censure of Mexicans. Icons allows a finite amount of escapism; the rest of the show is rooted in gritty reality.
Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise, recited in an American accent by Le Gateau, bookends the all-too-short performance, but is happily followed by a sing-along encore. This is a delicious, sequin-drenched hour with a huge heart at its centre.
Le Gateau Chocolat: Icons is at Soho Theatre from 12th December 2016 to 7th January 2017; for further information or to book visit here.