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Duckie review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘fills the space and the soul’

Le Gateau Chocolat in Duckie at Summerhall. Photo: Tracy Gentles Le Gateau Chocolat in Duckie at Summerhall. Photo: Manuel Vason

In Le Gateau Chocolat’s raggedy makeshift world, ugly ducklings don’t turn into beautiful swans. Life isn’t that simple if you’re ‘different’. Instead Gateau tells us, through songs and lots of silliness, that ducklings just have to find their own space in the world, learn their talents, and own them.

This is the cabaret superstar’s first show for kids, and it’s a form that really suits. His warm smile and fluttering eyelashes, as well as the animal costumes made out of sparkly things pulled out of his costume box, make him look like a fantastical character from a children’s TV show.

He sashays up into the audience, talking directly to the kids and letting them throw screwed up balls of paper at him.

And that voice… it gets into the bones. Whether it’s Not While I’m Around sung by a little mouse or the peacock’s Don’t Cha or the duckling’s rendition of I Am What I Am, Gateau’s luxurious bass-baritone fills the space and the soul.

There’s lovely design, too, from Ryan Dawson Laight, creating circus animals of things such as umbrellas and ropes.

Gateau updates Hans Christian Andersen’s original message for a world that’s more sophisticated in its approach to identity politics, and it’s lovely to see intelligent, slightly queer, and really enjoyable work being made for children.

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Inclusive update of The Ugly Duckling by cabaret supremo Le Gateau Chocolat