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Interview: Le Gateau Chocolat on A CHRISTMAS GAIETY, Qatar, BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT and RPDR: 'Drag is transgressive and anarchic at its core'

Interview: Le Gateau Chocolat on A CHRISTMAS GAIETY, Qatar, BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT and RPDR: 'Drag is transgressive and anarchic at its core'

The showstopping singer appears this Saturday at the Royal Albert Hall in Peaches Christ's A Christmas Gaiety.

With a CV that includes drag, opera, musical theatre and live art, Le Gateau Chocolat is a cabaret legend who escapes categorisation even if it is relatively easy to put your finger on just why he is so entertaining. Blessed with a voice that can belt out everything from Puccini to Bon Jovi and back and with a wicked dress sense (for Exhibit A, see above), he brings joy and wonder to the stage every time we have seen him over the last decade. The larger-than-life singer turned down a career in law before embarking on a journey which has seen him create his own productions and trot the globe with the likes of the brilliant La Soiree company.

Those who have caught Le Gateau Chocolat's own creations are unlikely to forget them. BLACK was a deep dive into his personal struggles with being black, gay, big and depressed. Streaked with self-deprecating humour and bursts of opera, it featured his heartbreakingly mournful arrangement of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)". His critically-acclaimed children's show Duckie debuted at the Southbank Centre in 2016 and has gone on to appear at London's Roundhouse, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Wales Millennium Centre, and Manchester's Contact Theatre.

This Saturday, he will appear in Peaches Christ's A Christmas Gaiety at the Royal Albert Hall. If you miss him there, he'll be kicking off next year in grand style alongside long-time collaborator and fellow drag institution Jonny Woo in their A Night At The Musicals at Soho Theatre (January 4-21).

As he prepares for those shows, BroadwayWorld caught up with the singer for a quick interview.

What did Christmas mean to you when you were growing up?

Family time. Coming from a large extended family, we would often try to have Christmas together. When this proved impossible, we would have several celebrations from around the 20th through to New Year.

And what are your Christmas plans this year?

A very quiet one. My sister and my nieces. Heaven.

You've recently been in the US. Is that a country you would ever move to?

I have indeed and I'm excited to be making two new works with Taylor Mac and Adrienne Truscott. I could never live in America. I find the lack of common sense gun laws unconscionable and, as a black man, utterly terrifying.

How did you get involved with A Christmas Gaiety?

Peaches Christ sent me a message on Instagram. They've tried before. The planets finally aligned and I couldn't be happier to finally meet and work with them.

Britain's Got Talent is again in the headlines. We remember you railing against it in 2012 when we saw you at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Would you appear on it in the UK or elsewhere?

I've been approached almost every single year since its inception. I don't think it's the right vehicle for what I do. I'm not sure there's room for nuance against all the pomp, fanfare and sensationalism the show's now geared towards.

One of my bugbears about Ru Paul's Drag Race is that it presents a narrow view of what counts as drag, something which excludes many of the greatest performers around. Would you agree?

I think drag, as an art form, is very wide and all encompassing. I think it's transgressive and anarchic at its core. I invite purveyors of it to look to several sources to enjoy and discover its potential and offerings. Put it this way: you could certainly dine in one restaurant that served one drink and one dish or you could savour delicacies from across the globe - choose your adventure.

What would you say to gay performers considering performing in non-LGBT friendly countries like Qatar or Russia?

Don't. It's not hyperbolic to say it's not worth endangering your life. Solidarity with LGBT+ people (born and living in) who don't have the privilege of exercising such agency. I would invite performers to consider how we might help them.

And, finally, what is your single most abiding memory of 2022?

A two-week workshop in upstate New York with Taylor Mac and the most extraordinarily talented and diverse cast. My first gig as the world reopened. I was expanded and exhausted. Extraordinary.

Le Gateau Chocolat appears at Peaches Christ's A Christmas Gaiety at the Royal Albert Hall on 3 December

Photo Credit: Michał Obuchowski

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