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LIMINAL by Le Gateau Chocolat at King’s Head Theatre

The Cambridge English Dictionary states that “Liminal” is an adjective meaning “between or belonging to two different places or states” for example the “liminal state between waking and sleeping”.

Liminal - Grace Nyandoro - photo credit, Lidia Crisafulli.
Liminal – Grace Nyandoro – photo credit, Lidia Crisafulli.

The programme tells us that Le Gateau Chocolat, who wrote and directed this piece of theatre, is “a drag artist of colour… a technically gifted and celebrated baritone”. The principal idea appears to be that an opera singer finishes her performance and returns to her dressing room where she removes her make-up and costume whilst remembering the music that has meant most to her. This she either sings or listens to by turning on the radio, which appears to have a mind of its own as it not only changes stations automatically, it also still works when the plug is pulled out.

There is no plot as such, it is just forty-five minutes of the singer’s memory, though she says very little, and at the end appears to return to the stage to sing Aida, but we hear little of this, which is a shame.

When one enters the auditorium, the first thing that strikes one is the magnificent white set, complete with myriad lighting effects and plush carpet. Full credit here to the imaginative designer Isabella Van Braeckel, who has ensured that the show has a truly lavish setting, much grander than any dressing room I have ever seen!

The only person we see on stage is the opera singer, Grace Nyandoro at the performance I attended. She is asked to do little apart from occasionally sing – “Motherless Child” being the most memorable, but we learn little about her, apart from the fact that she is clearly uncomfortable with having to change her clothes in front of an audience. Almost continuous radio narration is by Tommy Bradson though again we learn little about Grace from what he says. The under-used musical director/keyboard player is Debbi Lindley, though what she is doing in Grace’s dressing room we are never told, even though Grace reacts to and with her at times. Presumably, going back to the title “Liminal”, Grace, is in the state between acting/singing and being ‘herself’ or…

This piece of theatre does not appear to be sure what it wants to say or how to say it. As we rarely hear any song, whether on the radio or performed live, complete, it comes over as quite frustrating, though perhaps this is the playwright’s cunning plan!

3 Star Review

Review by John Groves

Creative Team
Exploring the bittersweet richness of the dark, with the creamy decadence of the light, Le Gateau Chocolat joins forces with King’s Head Theatre to create a brand new show. Each night, a specially curated operatic song cycle will offer a meditation on where do we go and who do we become when we lose our anchor?

For years, in a small room at the back of a pub, audiences have seen the greatest operas reworked, reimagined, and updated. But what happens when Tosca takes her taxi home at the end of the night? When Figaro has a zoom meeting at 11.00am?

Writers – Le Gateau Chocolat and Tommy Bradson
Performers – Grace Nyandoro, Honey Rouhani, Robert Barbaro and Dan D’Souza
Director – Le Gateau Chocolat
Musical Arranger – David Herriman
Lighting Designer – Conor Lovejoy
Designer – Isabella Van Braeckel
Movement Consultant – Ingrid McKinnon
Assistant Director – Amber Sinclair-Case

King’s Head Theatre and Le Gateau Chocolat Ltd
Written and directed by Le Gateau Chocolat
Co-written and narrated by Tommy Bradson


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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