Le Gateau Chocolat is returning to Adelaide Fringe Festival, and this year’s offering is even sweeter with two great shows in the program.
Speaking to us from Fringeworld in Perth, where he’s performing a season of ICONS, before heading to Adelaide, Gateau gave us a run down of the shows he’s bringing our way.
The Nigerian born, London based cabaret star is treating audiences to Duckie, a children’s show, and A Night at the Musicals, a high camp cabaret for grown ups.
After bringing an intensely beautiful show ICONS to The Garden of Unearthly Delights last year, Gateau thought it was about time to do something a little frivolous.
“The adult show is A Night at the Musicals, which I’m doing with with my friend Jonny Woo, and is really rather silly. I took Icons and Black to Edinburgh last year, and Jonny did a show called Transformer. They are all really heavy shows, and quite emotionally involved. That’s really fine, and I love that kind of work, but sometimes you want to let your hair down as well,” he says.
“Musicals allows us to do that. It allows us to showcase our love of the musical theatre genre while absolutely destroying it. Because we love it, we can absolutely rip the piss out of it. It’s such a ridiculous art form, where people state some kind of emotion or idea and then sing about it, and if they’re lucky, they’ll do a dance routine. By virtue of that, we’ve selected musical songs we love but are also internationally renowned.
‘It’s a really silly, fun party for people to get involved in. It’s high camp and a lot of fun. We wondered how else we could make it ridiculous, and I know we do drag, but we wondered how we could make it even sillier, so we said, ‘Let’s do bathing suits!’”
The combination of baritone Gateau and comedian Jonny Woo will be an absolute treat for audiences, and Gateau is looking forward to being part of the duo.
“It’s the first time since 2011 that I’ve had a partner on stage, so that’s going to be really exciting and interesting for me. Jonny improvises and, even after six years of working together, he still makes me laugh on stage. Almost every show is a new one with him. A show born of friendship is really rather wonderful to be a part of,” he says.
Duckie is the show Gateau devised for children, and it was born out of the joy he felt when he unexpectedly performed for a bunch of kids.
“Duckie was something that happened organically. I did a guest spot on a variety show, and I was the penultimate act. When I got on stage, I was doing a number I normally do and I noticed that in the gap between the stage and the audience, that gap that normally reinforces the fourth wall and is really empty, was kids. There were about 35 kids. There’s nothing inappropriate about what I do, but I didn’t want to do the next two numbers I normally do because I thought they’d be bored, or it wouldn’t be right, and I knew I could do something else the kids and I would enjoy more,” he says.
“I travel with all my music on an iPod, so after the song, I took off my shoes and I went down and sat amongst them. I got their names and ages; we talked about ballet and their other hobbies, and then I did ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ and then ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ and it was incredibly magical. It was very special. I’ve performed at the Opera House and for the Queen and this was one of the best gigs I’ve done.”
The next day, the artistic director of the variety show pitched in with two other theatre companies to commission a kids show, which is based around a fairy tale that means a lot to Gateau.
“It was just going to be a collection of songs; I thought I’d do something really simple, like Belle or Ariel and just do princess songs. Then I realised this was an opportunity to impart a message. Some of the things I talk about in other shows are just as important for kids to hear. I talk about living on the fringe and being different, and I thought it’d be quite important to plant these seeds for kids as well. My world view has not so much changed, but intensified since the birth of my niece two and a half years ago. Now I’m hyper aware of the kind of world I want her to grow up in,” he says.
“I saw the film Inside Out and it was extraordinary. Then I was speaking to Ali McGregor and she’s got two daughters. She was incredibly moved by the film, because she said one of the things she finds scary about raising children is there are certain things she wants them to know. She wants them to grow to love people and understand not everyone is the same; those are the things she’s consciously controlling, but she doesn’t know what she might say or do that might adversely affect her child, or plant a seed that grows into something she never wanted it to. So with Duckie, I thought choosing The Ugly Duckling was an opportunity to pass on some of these messages about being different.”
Through the development of the show, Duckie took on many layers; it’s musical and fun, but it also presents an important message for kids and parents.
“My take on The Ugly Duckling is twofold. There’s the idea that because you go through some hardship you grow into a swan, but the truth is, sometimes you don’t grow into a swan just because you’ve been through hardships. You have to put a lot of work in; nothing is handed to you. You don’t get a present at the end of a tenure of being bullied in secondary school; no one gives you a medal. Life just continues,” he says.
“So, for me, the real story of The Ugly Duckling is what happens when happily ever after doesn’t materialise and you’re just a duck that doesn’t look like everyone else. The swan then becomes metaphorical and you need to learn to love yourself. You’ve just got to accept you’re going to be a duck, so be the best duck you can be. But I also want to tackle the idea that you weren’t ugly in the first place, it’s a societal projection. Even if you are slightly different, it’s fine.”
A Night at the Musicals is showing from February 12 until March 13 at Studio 7 in The Garden of Unearthly Delights. Buy tickets HERE.
Duckie will be playing from February 13 until March 14 at Corona Theatre in The Garden of Unearthly Delights. Buy tickets HERE.
Read our review of Le Gateau Chocolat’s show ICONS from last year’s Fringe Festival.
By Libby Parker
Libby Parker is a journalist, teacher and life enthusiast.
You can follow her on Twitter at @upsidenews_lib