Le Gateau Chocolat: ICONS review + Q&A
The lights go down reeeeal low. A piano rings out the first notes of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, and silence blankets Soho Theatre. A disembodied voice rings through the room, singing those haunting first lines. Slowly, the audience becomes aware of a figure slinking down the aisle from behind them towards the stage, their face covered by a huge lace head-piece. Eventually, Le Gateau Chocolat climbs up to the stage, and performs the song in its entirety, bold and dramatic. He looks like a widow at an Old Hollywood funeral. It’s really quite moving, though hard to tell precisely why. The song ends and he breaks character as grieving Californian to tell a funny story about running a marathon that involves a dire need for a sports bra.
It’s this kind of switch that keeps up the pace of Le Gateau Chocolat’s ICONS, which is back at Soho Theatre after a successful run at the beginning of the year. He tells personal anecdotes, some hilarious, some deeply sad, and then, as if none of us are even there, as if he’s totally alone in front of the mirror with a hairbrush to his mouth, he belts out a tune by one of his many musical icons.
The intimacy of the show is pretty staggering. He talks to us like he’s talking to his best friend; he tells us about his heartbreak, his grief, his depression with as much candour as he tells us about fun car rides with his father in Nigeria. Everyone in the room is totally on his side, forming a little cocoon of support and admiration.
If that makes ICONS sound self-indulgent, it is only to play it for laughs. Le Gateau Chocolat sings huge a variety of different songs from artists like Meatloaf, Bjork, Olivia Newton-John, all showcasing his great voice in different ways (we even have a little opera at one point), and each of them are at least 3-4 minutes long, but each feels appropriate, in keeping with the vibe of the piece. This is Le Gateau Chocolat’s world, we just live in it, and he’ll take as long as he needs. The audience don’t mind one bit.
We caught up with Le Gateau Chocolat to ask him a little more about the the show, and where he's got coming up next.
Hi! We loved the show, but how would you describe it to the uninitiated?
ICONS is a celebration of the universality we find in great music, art, moments. They punctuate our lives differently but are, by no means, less impactful. Music; Madonna, Elvis, Whitney, Grease, Kate Bush, Bjork. Moments; Falling in love, friendships, marathons, presidents. Art; Maya Angelou, Jessye Norman, Labyrinth…
This is the second time ICONS has come to Soho. What have you been up to since you were last here?
It’s been a bit of a crazy year. Immediately after ICONS which finished early Jan, I flew to Australia, my second home, and embarked on a tour of A Night at the Musicals with my sister, Jonny Woo. I returned in March and started work on my first Chekhov works; The Bear and The Proposal at The Young Vic. After the most ridiculous audition in an Addison Lee for Emma Rice, Chekhov segued to my first Shakespeare; Twelfth Night at The Globe which was simply magic. That went till August when I returned to Australia for A Night at the Musicals for Darwin Festival and the Australian Debut of Tom Waits’ and William Burroughs’ Opera; The Black Rider for Melbourne Festival with anarchic diva extraordinaire and friend, Meow Meow. I arrived home last week, i’m in prep for Duckie, my family show and ICONS… Go, go, go!
Are there any icons you wanted to include and couldn’t? Who were they and why couldn’t you include them?
Oh god, the show could keep going but at approx 70 mins, we had to start making some brutal cuts they included Barbra Streisand, TLC, Judy Garland, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Prince, Super Mario Bros… I think at this point, the only reason for not including them was timing constraints. Maybe there’s a part 2?
What’s next for Le Gateau Chocolat?
Duckie; a reimagining for the ugly duckling fairy tale.
ICONS; Soho, Canterbury Festival, Homotopia Festival
Jonny Woo’s Unreal Variety at Hackney Empire.
Discussing and making new work over Nov/Dec.
A preview of some new pieces for A Night at the Musicals at the Glory this Christmas.
A return down under for another A Night at the Musicals tour; New Zealand and Australia.
Then whatever’s in the middle before girding my loins for the ultimate performance platform and market; Edinburgh 2018. I haven’t been since 2016 but I think it’s time to make the pilgrimage again.