As the year wraps up, we also see the end of the WMC’s Performances for the Curious season also conclude. Although there have been some debates concerning previous work in the programme it has proved to be a fascinating and often moving experience thanks to the breadth of work on other.
Le Gateau Chocolat graced us with a visit earlier this year at the miss-mash Festival of Voice. Now with two whole shows to himself, the Centre could not simply handle the amount of Chocolat thrust upon us. In Icons, we are witness to a telling piece of storytelling and songs. Chocolat is from Nigeria, growing up gay and struggling with hyper religious parents. The escape from homophobia lead to England and the discovery of drag lead to a new career, along with songs of all kinds.
Chocolat is a natural-born performer. His striking baritone is a USP (with unforgettable bass notes), with higher resisters that are also impressive. There is a love for all music here: Madonna, Elvis, musical theatre and opera. I was intrigued how the opera elements would come about. This opera lover was quite shocked and enthralled by hearing a baritone voice give a rendition of ‘Vesti la giubba’ from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. This famous aria is a standard any tenor worth his weight, though I dare say he got away with it here. The small, clown hat finished off the bejewelled cape with a fitting aplomb. More opera would have been very welcome.
The intimate moments of monologue help create a more rounded show, than just the concert that it would otherwise be. There is heartbreak, anger, pain and depression, though the joy of life is ever-present and some very funny moment are proven by a giddy audience, who belly laughed throughout it. I craved even more stories: has he been back to Nigeria? Does he keep in touch with family? What does he think of Madonna’s later work? What’s his favourite piece of clothing? I guess we can find out all these things in a tell all autobiography (I would certainly read it).
There are some lush costumes pieces here and some funny wigs. It is highly refreshing to see a performer of colour, who defies body shape contractions, is gay and also a drag artist get the spot light and tell us all how he got here. A fascinating journey is touched upon here and perhaps a two-part show would be essential, with a snazzy cliff hanger for the intermission. Few shows leave you wanting more but Icons does just that.
One wonders what his other show Duckie, a reimagining of The Ugly Duckling will be like in the next few days at the Centre.
Icons continues at WMC till 22nd December 2018.
This review has been kindly supported by the Wales Critics Fund.