Following success at Edinburgh’s Fringe, Award-winning Le Gateau Chocolat performs his celebrated solo show Icons at Wales Millennium Centre, bringing their Performances for the Curious season to a fabulous close.
Icons celebrates the stars that influence us in our adolescence, how they shape and mould the people we become. More than a drag performance, Icons gives us a glimpse into the story behind Le Gateau Chocolat, as the audience gets an intimate look at both his performance and personal personas. The setting—a childhood bedroom with dinosaurs on the bed covers—has walls plastered with posters of Chocolat’s icons and influences, from David Bowie to Aretha Frankline, Ghostbusters to The Goonies.
Chocolat has a voice that is a force to be reckoned with. He sings with both rich baritone and soft sweetness. An undeniable talent, he’ll have you singing along to Whitney Houston’s How will I know and Olivia Newton-John’s Xanadu. Dressed in a sequinned leotard, with curly lashes and feathers, Chocolat manages to be sassy, fierce, vulnerable and tender all at once. It is refreshing to see a gay man of colour in drag, empowered, thriving on centre-stage, and capturing his audience.
Carefully crafted by Chocolat and musical director Marty Hailey, Icons is a fusion of music and monologue. Chocolat gives beautiful performances of the likes of Kate Bush and Madonna alongside small moments where he tells of his life; memories with his father in Lagos, falling in love for the first time, the death of a dear friend. These moments elevate the show, and woven with musical performance, they keep up great pace and energy. During these short, personal snapshots we feel as if we are really getting to know Chocolat, and we’re left wanting more. It feels as if there is more to be said, more depth that could be explored if perhaps the show ran for longer.
Icons is a rollercoaster, as is Chocolat himself. He’ll have you belly-laughing with his impressions of his younger self Beyoncé-dancing in his family kitchen one moment, and give a tear jerking performance the next. In a particular emotive performance of Wicked the musical’s For Good, Chocolat gives tribute to his late friend Adrian, who had great influence on his journey of self-discovery. The show is also brimming with political undertones. It contrasts the voice of Obama, declaring the peaceful union of the states of America, against the hate of Trump. Maya Angelou reads her poem Still I Rise throughout. A reminder that it is just as important now as it ever has been, to unite and stand against hate.
All in all, Icons is a reminder of the true power of music and performance. As escapism, expressionism, a means of forming who you want to be and accepting who you are. For Chocolat, his icons are an integral part of his persona. They teach him to be fearless, to rise, like dust, into the light.