In a recent episode of the Adam Buxton podcast, RuPaul’s Drag Race producer Fenton Bailey looks back on his early career on Channel 4 and acknowledges that The Divine David Presents, which ran for two late night series in the 90s, was one of the most creative projects he ever worked on. This forgotten show, now available in snippets on YouTube, still feels like a deeply strange and unsettling proposition, as presenter David Hoyle delivers dystopian monologues in extreme close-up, with odd, jagged intonation. It manages to simultaneously be the stuff of nightmares and utterly hilarious.
Still a prolific cabaret performer on the live circuit, David Hoyle brings his ‘Love-in’ to the Spiegeltent this week, and there is certainly a great deal of love in the air from the sell-out crowd. His signature greeting gets a huge round of applause straight off the bat. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen… and those of you clever enough to have transcended gender.” Hoyle has certainly transcended gender. Tonight he is wearing black fishnet stockings, a beige dress and a puffy white taffeta cape, all accentuated by what he describes as “a light day make-up” – lipstick and eyeshadow drawn thickly to over-exaggerate his facial features. This is not a man in drag; it’s a punk look designed to stick two fingers up at all notions of gender difference.
Hoyle’s last Brighton show ‘Diamond’, which SOURCE reviewed last December, was a very different beast, a structured performance piece telling the history of 60 years of the gay civil rights struggle. Tonight Hoyle wears his cabaret hat for a more free flowing performance, relying mostly on audience interaction.
For one section, we are each invited to think of a word. Hoyle then randomly asks audience members their word, and adds the responses to a list on a large canvas. He proceeds to sing a song, a cappella, incorporating all the items on his word list. It’s a fun little game, although one senses that the song, an impassioned ditty about the pointlessness of gender labels, would probably have been essentially the same regardless of the word cloud.
Later he invites an audience member on stage and paints their portrait as one of his own songs plays loudly. Initially this sounds like a strangely muted idea for an item in a cabaret show – yet watching Hoyle paint his sitter’s smile then continually re-edit it wider and wider as she collapses into hysterics brings us all to fits of communal laughter.
Hoyle is a contradiction, seemingly full of darkness and anger but also brimming with love. He rants furiously about the status quo (tonight his venom is mainly directed at the upcoming royal wedding) – yet not once does he elicit a cheap laugh at the expense of any of the audience members he chats with. He reaches out, holds their hands and tells them how much he loves them. These funny, tender moments provide the highlight of a show that is universally well received by a delighted audience.
Exiting slowly through the centre aisle with a slightly sarcastic royal wave, Hoyle is eventually swamped by people at the door, eager for more chat and a post show selfie. His love has proved infectious.
Spiegeltent, Wednesday 16th May 2018