Le Gateau Chocolat’s delicious, multi-layered performance is the golden ticket. Indulge yourself with a blast of unashamed campery and some revealing moments.
Anyone who thinks Le Gateau Chocolat is a drag act with operatic overtures is missing the point of this joyful bundle of divas wrapped up in a Lycra jumpsuit. He may channel many legendary stars from Streisand to Garland to Holiday, but this ex-law graduate is always absolutely himself, a unique act who’s not afraid to reveal he is a cake of many layers.
He opens I ♥ Chocolat standing on a circular stage in the centre of the Speigeltent, dressed from the waist down like a Victorian widow in black taffeta. All lip gloss and attitude, he belts out a raucous rendition of the South Park hit Chocolate Salty Balls, sporting a Donna Summer wig that he flicks from side to side like a disco diva. He cuts a glittering spectacle on stage, but if there is any one reason to see him, it is to listen to his extraordinary, sonorous voice; a velvety baritone that occasionally drops into a haunting bass register. This instrument of enormous skill uses different genres of music to convey an array of emotions from joy through to loss, dosing it with plenty of sparkles and chutzpah.
In the first section of the show, Le Gateau Chocolat links up his repertoire by selecting individual members of the audience and inviting them to sample a chocolate of their choice from an assortment box. They are then asked to name the flavour to form a segue to the next song. The trouble is the connections are baffling and there’s no obvious mental leap between, for example, “hazelnut” and Amy Winehouse, making it a random selection jukebox that doesn’t really work as a theatrical device. This lack of narrative thread and some less than slick costume changes are the main weaknesses of an otherwise superb show that is over too soon.
After the high octane kitsch of the opening numbers, Le Gateau Chocolat removes his hair piece and frock to reveal himself unadorned. Bareheaded and in a black Lycra cat suit, he sings an equally stripped back version of Nick Cave’s The Ship Song, creating a sea change in the atmosphere, from frou-frou extravagance to something captivatingly raw and still. It’s a testament to his abilities as a singer and performer that, having dazzled the audience with sequins, he is able to access his own vulnerability with such ease, before switching back effortlessly into upbeat frivolity.
The costume changes, though sometimes laboured, are an integral part of the show and are announced by his backing band striking up music from the iconic 1970s Cadbury’s Flake advert, reminding us that through this show a rich vein of chocolate runs. There is a Liberace-style cloak with feathers for I Who Have Nothing, gold lamé and a gymnast’s ribbon for the finale and, for his abridged homage to Les Miserables, a Dalmatian print onesie with a balaclava hood. In this, he takes us through highlights of the recent movie version, including a wonderfully irreverent impression of Russell Crowe singing Stars off key which, for a singer this technically accomplished, can’t be an easy feat.
By the end, everyone is on their feet for some crowd-pleasing Madonna, as Le Gateau Chocolat hits the audience with everything he’s got; big frock, big voice and an even bigger presence. He holds nothing back because he wants you to have as good a time as he is having. And you do. We ♥ Le Gateau Chocolat.
I ♥ Chocolate. Performed by Le Gateau Chocolat. London Wonderground, Jubilee Gardens, off Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX. 7. July. 9.15pm. £14-£20.50. www.legateauchocolat.com