Taking a friend see the genius that is David Hoyle (a friend who was a virgin to the experience) raised the question, “What does he do?” As David appeared in all his glory at the landmark LQBTQ+ venue, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the natural presumption was that he was a drag queen. No, I explained, he most definitely is not. If Lindsay Kemp and Kate Bush had a child and then asked Frank-N-Furter to be the godfather, David would probably be that child.
David is billed as an avant-garde performance artist, singer and actor but that is still not an adequate description of his unique talents. David stands out from the minute he steps on to the stage; he is a vessel of extraordinary light. His light talks to you in a way you could never train an artist to recreate. He may arrive in a variety of costumes, ranging from the grotesque to glamorous diva meets Bowie. No outfit or stage persona could ever hide the fact that David has incredible empathy towards others, especially his audience. He exposes a sensitivity most people would be afraid to show (especially being British!).
David is, however, not afraid to say what he thinks. For many of his loyal and eclectic audience, he is saying what they have been thinking all week but have not had the nerve to say. A David Hoyle show has you thinking and talking for days afterwards, even if you have not agreed with his views. His wit and one-liners, mixed with his art and vocal talents, make a David Hoyle show a roller coaster of a night. When asking an audience member “What do you do for a living?” they replied, “I do what you do”. “Really?” replied Hoyle, “I had no idea I was generic”.
I was a later bloomer to the world of Hoyle. I came to know him when he married American drag queen, singer and artist, Christeene (African Mayonnaise) on stage at The Vauxhall Tavern. A quick Google search led to his brilliant duet with Boy George – Spoiling it for the Others. Hoyle comes across in the video as what Rue Paul’s gals would call a “Fierce Queen” – not to be messed with and someone you would not want to get on the wrong side of. His talents were crystal clear.
Two months later, I came straight from a long-haul flight to meet actress Denise Welch at the Ivy Club for the preview launch of Linda Riley’s DIVA Awards show. One glass in and standing next to me was the man himself. His huge eyes were far from being fierce and instead exuded a kindness, which was confirmed months later through his actions. He stood on the stage at the Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club with no make-up, baring his soul to the audience about his hometown, Manchester. He spoke about the atrocity of the Manchester Arena bombing. David started the speech by telling us that he did not want to cancel the show as the terrorists would then be winning. Anyone there that night will remember his words forever.
I caught up with him on a grey Manchester day for my Christmas interview.
David, what would you do if you were made the Mayor of London for one day?
Steven, it is time we all started thinking out of the box and letting our hair down. It has been a terrible year. Perhaps we should all take some psychedelic drugs and get loved up – like they did in the 60s. We can look after one another and just feel great for one day.
How has being isolated affected you as an artist? Have you been in quarantine on your own?
Well, I have not exactly been alone. We had rats in the kitchen in the beginning! To be honest, I have not enjoyed it at all. It certainly has affected the mental health of many people I know. For me, I can enjoy my own company, but obviously, as a human being used to performing, isolation does start to catch up with you. The breaking point came for me when Dominic Cummings did the Durham dash and got away with it. It felt like one rule for them and one for us.
Who were your early influences?
I grew up in Blackpool, and a birthday treat was to go to Tower Circus. All the glamour of the women in sequins and feathers was sheer escapism. The sheer magic and genius of [clown] Charlie Caroli was such escapism for me.
Dame Shirley Bassey was also a huge influence on me; her glamour and command of the stage is simply stunning.
Life was hard for me growing up. I did not fit in at school. The birth of glam rock, such as Marc Bolan and Bowie, offered a light for me and I started to emulate the dress sense. The punk scene really offered me an avenue to express who I was. The Buzzcocks and lead singer Pete Shelley were among my favourites, as well as the Sex Pistols.
How do you feel the gay scene has changed in the last decade? Has your audience changed?
To be honest, I do not go out that much on the gay scene. If I do go out, it is to see another artist. I am incredibly proud of how the Manchester scene has produced acts like Cha Cha Boudoir and Cheddar Gorgeous. My own audience remains eclectic; you really could not define who comes to my show. There can be city bankers mixed in with club kids to Blitz royalty. It has certainly changed with the apps and other ways of meeting people. But I could not handle the rejection of things like that.
What would you like to happen to you in 2021?
For me, I would like to be back in the theatre. I had a sell-out at the Soho Theatre and would like to go back there. I was working on a production of Hedda Gabler at the Edge Hill University in Lancashire, and it was going to be filmed. It would be great to see that happen.
Of course, I would love to appear in Brighton or at the Spiegeltent for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
How are you spending Christmas?
With a friend at home in Manchester. It will be a quiet one.
Do you have a favourite Christmas movie? What are your three favourite movies of all time?
Is Oliver a Christmas Movie? Then Oliver it is! I would have loved to play Oliver, and who can forget the hunky Oliver Reed? I would love to have had a night out with him. Then Hello Dolly with Barbra Streisand. The Red Shoes is pure magic, and the film If with Malcolm McDowell.
If you were to hold a dream dinner party, which four people, alive or dead, would you invite and why?
That’s such a hard question because there are so many people I would love to invite. In case of offending any friends, I will keep it to famous people. Princess Margaret would be at the top of my list. She smoked, and I love that and can imagine the stories she would tell at dinner. Grace Jones would be another guest; she fascinates me and is so talented. Then Bonnie Greer, the playwright, and to top it off, Madonna, who I just love. It would be quite a party.
Do you feel that, as a nation, we have become too PC?
Well, it feels we are in danger of not being able to laugh at ourselves. People are starting to be afraid to deliver humour in the context it is intended, in case it offends anyone. Some of the comedy giants of the past would, for sure, not be allowed today. Let’s take humour in the spirit it was meant to be.
Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life and why?
Cary Elwes – he starred alongside Rupert Everett in Another Country. There is something captivating about him. Or, who knows, Sandra Bernhard.
Fruit and Fibre from Morrisons Super Market (I am not big of food).
Madonna or Nina Simone?
Oh, you’re kidding me. Both are wonderful.
London or New York?
Anywhere but here right now. Both have different attributes.
The last time you laughed?
Watching Family Guy.
The last time you cried?
Watching The Kings Speech with Colin Firth