WHEN Nigerian-born and London-raised entertainer Le Gateau Chocolat dons a sequined dress and heels, it’s an expression of gender fluidity more than it is drag.
“I grew up in Nigeria with religious parents knowing from a young age I was gay but not knowing it was called gay – just that something was ‘wrong’ with me,” he said.
“My drag isn’t about female impersonation or gender, it’s more about misdirection and the fluidity of gender.”
Le Gateau said there was no lightbulb moment or cathartic experience that propelled him into the world of drag and entertainment, he simply began frequenting a London nightclub that featured a late-night cabaret he soon became a part of.
Since then he’s often used his performance art as a platform to raise awareness around issues that are important to him, something he feels is a necessity.
“My solo performances are about commonality,” he said.
“We’re in a time where it’s easy to see what makes me different from you – my colour, my size, my garb, how I look – but in a Trump world my work underlines that we are the same.
“Immigrants don’t abandon land and put themselves and their families in danger for the sake of it, and the campaign that was run in the lead up to the UK voting to leave the EU was incredibly xenophobic.
“At the end of the day we all have the same aspirations, we want to be lives and to dream, and we want to find the means to accomplish those dreams.”
Le Gateau added that he feels a social responsibility to use his platform as a means to raise awareness.
“It isn’t a matter of whether I ‘can’ use my role for this, I think I must use it,” he said.
“People came down on Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes for using her acceptance speech to talk about Trump but one, he’s now president, and two, it’s absolutely her responsibility to do so.
“People look up to her around the world – and she doesn’t just perform for people on the left, she speaks to Trump supporters as well.”
As part of this year’s Midsumma Festival in Melbourne Le Gateau will join long-time collaborator and friend Jonny Woo for A Night at the Musicals, a show that sees the pair belt ballsy ballads, delightful duets, and slaughtered show-tunes.
Le Gateau and Woo have known each other for around 12 years, and the current show was born out of a mutual love and respect for musical theatre.
“If you want to see an earnest musical you have a plethora right now in Australia, but if you want to let your hair down and break the theatrical construct, we invite people to revel,” he said.
“It’s an hour of pure escapism, you get the ability to join in and go back to when you were a child singing at the top of your lungs in your bedroom.
“I think it’s an hour of escapism watching two grown men being absolute idiots, and I hope that engenders an intense sense of idiocy from those that attend as well.”
A Night at the Musicals is playing at the Arts Centre Melbourne now until January 22. For more information and to buy tickets click here.