Writer and Director: Le Gateau Chocolat
Liminal is written and devised by “opera-occasional, lycra-loving, black-beard, drag-diva,” Le Gateau Chocolat, developed from his cabaret show “Raw Cacao”. He himself does not perform, however: each of the show’s four incarnations has a different cast. The set-up (and indeed the colourful set) is the same in each. An opera singer performs a final aria before reappearing in a dressing room and starts to relax. A radio sparks to life. A posh English voice (Tommy Bradson) announces a very personal night-time show, “Home Sweet Home,” directly addressing the singer. But there is no menace here. It’s more Auntie BBC than Big Brother. We get a snatch of the much-loved Shipping Forecast, followed by Sailing By, which to Pavlovian-conditioned radio listeners signals the nightly end of Radio 4.
Each short show features a range of songs, from operatic favourites, African American spirituals, musical numbers and classical lieder through to a dancible pop song from way back, together making the “Mixtape” created by Chocolat and the performer, for whom the pieces have personal resonance.
Stand-out performer is baritone Dan D’Souza, whose rich tones and compelling stage presence bring the show to life. His “performed” piece is Verdi’s glorious O Carlo, Ascolata. Back in the intimate space of the dressing room, he strips off his evening clothes, makes a quick call, worries about the safety of his bike, then rolls out a yoga mat and starts to stretch. He does downward dog and a shoulder stand to No Woman No Cry. He brushes his teeth to I’m A Believer. He can be playful and very funny, particularly when he lets rip with Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind. But then certain songs take him to a darker place. His voice cracks singing Down by the Salley Gardens. His Dido’s Lament (which also features in Grace Nyandoro’s show earlier in the evening) is mesmerising.
But has Liminal really fulfilled its promise to take us to a borderline place, to show us something we’ve never experienced before? The truth is, it’s a pleasing but ultimately sweet confection with little to startle or offend. This makes it all the more odd when the radio suddenly plugs Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Without doubt it’s an important work, but Liminal lacks context.
Runs until 23 October 2021