The West

REVIEW: Le Gateau Chocolat
REVIEW: Le Gateau Chocolat

What do you get when a voluptuous bearded black man in lipstick and lycra sings opera in a spiegeltent?

Le Gateau Chocolat evokes not only delight and laughter but the chance to be moved, surprised, and thoroughly transported to another world.

Delivering one of the stand-out shows of this year's Fringe, his incredible voice ranged from delicate and vulnerable, to a rich, prolonged baritone as he sang of loneliness and joy in heartfelt operatic versions of contemporary songs. The visual entertainment value was heightened as the larger-than-life star of La Soiree changed from one outrageous costume to another, selected from a glittering drag wardrobe on stage.

For his debut solo show, Le Gateau's repertoire included moving musical theatre numbers such as I Dreamed a Dream, Children Will Listen and Ol' Man River. Often accompanied by no more than a single live cello, the audience was transfixed as he stood among them and sang beautiful, slowed-down versions of Creep by Radiohead and Nick Cave's The Ship Song. The emotion was felt in every note.

Between songs Le Gateau shared personal anecdotes and philosophies gained from his own struggle for identity, plus plenty of camp jokes to sweeten the heaviness. He actually received no professional voice training but studied law instead, before he followed his heart and made the dramatic move to the stage. His Nigerian mother still doesn't know he's gay, let alone making a career out of singing in lycra.

"The irony is the stage is where I feel most comfortable," he said.

"Asking, 'Why' puts a ceiling on potential not yet discovered. Ask, 'Why not' . . . and you end up lycra-clad in Perth," he jibed.

The contradictions were endless - at once serious and funny, sad and uplifting, Le Gateau Chocolat took the audience on an emotional kaleidoscope of a journey.

The show ended on a huge high involving a skin-tight zebra costume, drag terrorists dressed in lycra, lots of dancing and a "collective orgasm" to Nessun Dorma.

Few performers can make you forget where you are. Le Gateau Chocolat has that rare gift.

The West Australian

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