Le Gateau Chocolat may know a thing or two about being an outsider; but his remarkable new show Black goes a long way to show there are many ways we are all the same.
A larger than life cabaret star, Le Gateau Chocolat is bright, bold and hard to ignore – but this beautiful 50 minute show was an intimate study into the insecurity of the performer and the man, creating something everyone can relate to. He was already on stage as the audience arrived, part of the furniture, putting on his face, with nowhere to hide.
He told his life story through Black, from his childhood in Nigeria, with his dream of being an opera star (a glamorous soprano in beautiful gowns, natch), to his overeating and an abusive relationship as he grew up. Little Black, as he called himself, was projected onto a canvas as an adorable animation, and Le Gateau mostly said what he wanted to say through song.
As a piece of storytelling, as an act, and as theatre it was a concise and impressively directed piece, expertly performed; personal without being self-indulgent, inventive, warm and wise.
So we were treated to a varied repertoire of everything from German opera, to the foreboding of a spine-tingling Strange Fruit; and there was a magical moment to represent his discovery of the gay scene. A perfect lip synch to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody – complete with every studied movement of her in the video, if I’m not wrong – segued into his own, slow a capella version, turning a dancefloor classic into a torch song of yearning and sadness. There were also original numbers too, with an especially funny sketch as he tried to make sense of his life while holding down a job at NHS Direct.
Narrated in a fairy tale style, the show examined how as Little Black grew, he had his dreams dashed by reality and people making him feel ashamed of who he was. Yet without his dreams, he was no longer anchored to the world and began to live aimlessly, and in sadness. It might seem something of an oxymoron, but it was a beautiful way of looking at life. Little Black needed his dreams back to make sense of himself and the world; to become Le Gateau Chocolat.
Before that could happen, he addressed the audience to admit there had been times when he had not wanted to live; a friend committing suicide only made the reality of the option clearer, and had in fact inspired the show. We just have to keep going and do our best, he concluded. So simple, so human and so honest, this was one of the most moving, entertaining and special shows of the year.