Dane Baptiste: The Chocolate Chip at Soho Theatre review – he’s one smart cookie

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his current run of Dane Baptiste’s latest show, The Chocolate Chip, is something of a victory lap. His tour was due to start in Spring 2020 and, well, we all know what happened next. But despite what he calls the “pancetta” he has managed to take it around the UK and he now brings his provocative exploration of race and racism to London.

Baptiste certainly knows how to win over his audience, swiftly helping a tall fan find extra leg room – he doesn’t want a death by deep vein thrombosis lawsuit on his hands. Gentle wordplay follows. Rice? Good. Cake? Good. Rice cake? bad. Liquorice is out of favour. “Who eats liquorice in a post-Haribos world?”

Gradually the material becomes muscular and forthright. There is an anecdote about his difficulties getting black cabs. He explains he is angry and has a chip on his shoulder, hence the show’s title. But he does not want to be perceived as an embodiment of the ‘angry black man’ stereotype. He is angry for a reason and is proud to embrace his chip.

While the subject matter is serious Baptiste retains a mischievous edge as he highlights iniquities. A story about being attacked near his mum’s home in Lewisham does not pan out the way you expect, while an anecdote about a TV intern mistaking him for fellow performer Richard Blackwood has a pointed pay-off about class and privilege.

The creator of BBC comedy Sunny D does not shy away from making his own position clear. He prefers working class racism to middle class racism, suggesting that at least the former is in your face, not behind your back. He cites the Windrush scandal as the latter. It is the moment when his anger really bursts through.

But he soon returns to having fun in a more wry way. This could not be further from a rant. There is a playful section on the difference between cats and dogs and the naming of animals. Why not call a killer whale a sea panda? They are similar colours after all.

There are moments where the set’s age shows, such as a smutty routine about what Barack Obama should have done in the White House before Donald Trump moved in that was approaching its tell-by date in 2020. But Baptiste has also boldly updated his finale, addressing reports that people of colour in Ukraine have had difficulties leaving the country.

As he says as he ties his conclusions neatly together, if you aren’t angry you aren’t paying attention. Baptiste is clearly paying plenty of attention. And in The Chocolate Chip he shows that he is one smart cookie.

Soho Theatre, to Saturday March 19, sohotheatre.com

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