He has performed for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was voted by Time Out London as a Top Ten Cabaret star and performed solo at the Sydney Opera House.
Now, returning to the Garden of Unearthly Delights in 2015, Le Gateau Chocolat brings us Icons, his new work, which explores relationships with the people, moments and relationships that shape us.
Through song and storytelling, Le Gateau visits his past to rediscover the moments and figures that have made him the iconic opera singer and drag diva he is today.
“This show is speaking about icons, some of which might be familiar to the people who are watching the show and some of which might just be mine; friends or influences who’ve come in and changed my life,” he says.
“I was looking for an interesting way to create a vehicle for telling the story and it finally dawned on me that most of our icons and the things that we hold dear that go on to shape the people that we’re called to become happen in our formative years. So, I’m setting the show in my bedroom – Le Gateau Chocolat as a young boy; like the Scrooge story – the juxtaposition of who I am now with the beard, the lashes and the makeup visiting my bedroom as a child when I was discovering all these people and the music.”
From the music that inspired him, to words of wisdom from his father, through to his emotional distress at being dropped off at boarding school by his mother, Icons will be a raw and honest look at how we become who we are.
Raised as a Christian in Nigeria, Le Gateau struggled to come to terms with some of the teachings, which played a part in some of the life decisions he ended up making.
“I was raised a devout Christian in Nigeria; supremely Catholic from my dad and Pentecostal from my mum. I had to marry a lot of the ideas of what I was taught into the person I was becoming because I was taught that being a homosexual was wrong,” he says.
“I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater though, I just wanted to try to make sense of religion myself. In Icons, I’ll be talking about my relationship with the bible.”
Le Gateau was born in London and spent his childhood in Nigeria before moving back to London to study law.
Now a professional and highly acclaimed performer, Le Gateau enjoys coming back to Adelaide for Fringe and is thrilled to be bringing his new work here in 2015.
“It’s kind of a spiritual welcoming each time I come. I have written four shows now, and three of them have debuted in Adelaide so it feels very comfortable and safe that I’m tackling an audience I know,” he says.
“I haven’t done a full Adelaide season since 2011 but that show went on to have a very critically acclaimed life and went around the globe so I’m quite excited about bringing a new work to Adelaide, in terms of my evolution and growth and what it is that I want to say now.”
The Baritone with the sequins and sass won’t allow you to be fooled though, this is not your ordinary drag show.
“I think my work has always been about subverting the expected and going towards something people understand, that our points of difference are easily recognisable,” he says.
“If you look at the poster of my show, one could look at it as tokenistic but that’s who I am. The image isn’t made up; it’s who I am as a performer. But most importantly, the point of difference for my show isn’t just my look. It’s not the fact that I’m big, black, bearded and gay, it’s that I love opera and I want to share that love of opera with you. I also want to sit down with you and tell you the things that make us the same.”
Telling his story through a mix of music from pop to opera, Kate Bush to Elvis and Whitney to Pavarotti, audiences should expect honesty, passion and quite a bit of gorgeous.
“Whenever I do anything, I always throw my whole self in to it. I try to leave my heart on the stage and show I’m more than the makeup, the wigs and the lashes. I think it’s important for people to see that we’re all human first,” he says.
“That’s what’s made the work prolific, is that I’ve been able to speak to people both cross-generational, cross-racial and in terms of musical genre; I’ve approached it whole heartedly but always try to transcend the obvious and speak the truth. And that’s put me in good stead from playing Poland to London, Adelaide to Edinburgh. I’m really thankful and really grateful. I love my work.”
Le Gateau Chocolat – ICONS runs February 13 to March 15 at The Deluxe in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Tickets are now on sale via Fringetix or phone 1300 621 255.
Story by Libby Parker