About the artist(s)
Le Gateau Chocolat’s work spans drag, cabaret, opera, musical theatre, children’s theatre and live art. His solo works include Duckie, ICONS and Black, all of which have toured extensively. Le Gateau Chocolat’s theatre work include Threepany Opera (National Theatre, London), Feste in Twelth Night (The Globe, London) and Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The First Act. Le Gateau has been a featured cast member of two-time Olivier Award winning cabaret and circus La Clique and La Soiree. Most recently he appeared in Wagner’s Tannhauser, which opened the 108th Bayreuth Festival in 2019, and attracted headlines around the world for the reaction to his participation as a black drag artist.
Highlights from his conversation with The Enormity of Now are below.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Le Gateau Chocolat. I am a British-Nigerian performer. That’s the short version. I’m a law graduate who never went to music college but had private tuition in singing and has since fallen into a career that is as surprising as it is a mistake.
I do any and everything. I sing, I write, I direct, I do dramaturgy. But where is my soul? I think it’s in being a creative performer. I’m always interested in new experiences and intersecting with new experiences that might inform me or make my world expand. So the chance to work with a new building or director is new and exciting to me. An art beast, as it were.
How did you get here?
It’s a mistake, it’s an absolute mistake, there was no way of getting here. It makes no sense. I ended up on a sold out stage for three nights with Basement Jaxx – how did that happen? Interestingly, the director of the Bayreuth Project saw a picture of me in an orange number in the Barbican. That was the picture that triggered him in his search for me. I’m a British- Nigerian who studied law. I don’t know. There’s no handbook to this path, but in saying ‘Yes’ to things, I hope that great things will happen. Eight and a half out of ten times, great things do happen. Most of the time it’s really great and really exciting. Some of the time it’s fucking awful. All of them are equally important.
How has the journey of your art/career engaged your voice – personally, artistically, politically?
Although completely in my favour, no audience expected me to sound like I do. My voice, without a discussion with me, led me into political and cultural discourse, filled with the subtlety and persistence of casual racism. The more I grew in experience, the more agency I would have in that conversation. The politics and culture had always been there. I just caught up to it.
What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?
A massive hug and comfort, regardless what language I sing in. I’m not a huge fan of my voice but I love painting with it. There’s a sweet spot when your head and heart combine with your voice. I found escape, I found joy. Sometimes my voice would be a conduit between me and people I had nothing in common with at all. In that sweet spot moment, we are all together.
Le Gateau Chocolat’s work spans drag, cabaret, opera, musical theatre, children’s theatre and live art. His bewitching baritone has been heard in previous works Le Gateau Chocolat (2011), I Chocolat (2012), In Drag (2013 Royal Festival Hall commission) and BLACK (2014 Homotopia commission), which toured with music ensemble Psappha in 2017.
His children’s show Duckie premiered at the Southbank Centre in 2016, and was included in the Guardian’s ‘6 of the Best Shows for Children’ of the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show, which introduces young people to the ideas of otherness, tolerance and self-acceptance, has been presented at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Wales Millennium Centre, Roundhouse, Contact Theatre and across venues in the South East of England.
His recent production ICONS has toured to Sydney Festival, Wales Millennium Centre, Soho Theatre, Underbelly Southbank and more. ICONS has also been presented with accompaniment from the Little Coco Orchestra, a Le Gateau Chocolat initiative to support diverse musicians through the creation of an ensemble formed entirely of women of colour. This up-scaled production premiered at SPILL Festival in 2018, with a subsequent presentation at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as part of SHOUT Festival.
Le Gateau Chocolat’s work in theatre includes working at the National in Rufus Norris’ production of Threepenny Opera, Feste in Emma Rice’s final visionary production of Twelfth Night at The Globe (2017) Effigies of Wickedness – Songs banned by the Nazis (2018) a co production between the Gate Theatre and English National Opera. Daddy Brubeck for the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Sweet Charity (2019) alongside Beverly Knight & Clive Rowe. He also appeared as part of Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The First Act at London’s Barbican Theatre (2019), Basement Jaxx & Metropole Orkest, Barbican. And as a featured cast member of two-time Olivier Award winning cabaret and circus; La Clique and La Soiree.
His opera work includes works with contemporary composers; Julian Phillips, Varjak Paw, Royal Opera House and tour. Jocelyn Pook, ‘Anxiety Fanfare’ Wigmore Hall and tour. Orlando Gough; Imago, Glyndebourne. Porgy & Bess, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Most recently he appeared in Wagner’s Tannhauser, starring Stephen Gould, which opened the 108th Bayreuth Festival in 2019 and attracted headlines around the world for the reaction to his participation as a black drag artist.