Michael Twaits is a performer who, since graduating from Mountview with an MA in Acting, has created a body of performance art/multi-media work which includes Confessions of a Dancewhore, Icons and The One You Love. He has performed at The Royal Festival Hall, National Film Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Lowry as well as vibrant fringe venues The Oval House and Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
A regular on the cabaret circuit Twaits is the flamboyant creator of the legendary Lady M, a foul mouthed but fabulous drag queen who has created quite a following for this witty performer. But as we talk about his piece for Pride 2010 – a reprise of Confessions – it seems that he is determined to leave such defined identities at the side of the stage and take a more exploratory view on people’s personalities. Honour Bayes chats to him about identity, campery, vodka and how, for all one’s glitz and glitter, it’s vital that you have something to say.
Tell us about Confessions of a Dancewhore.
It’s a multimedia cabaret theatre show exploring the politics of identity. I use different styles of performance to explore different sides of my personality – so it borrows from cabaret the fact that the form is also evolving and changing over the evening – so there’s no chance of getting bored! It’s a camp and pithy laugh with a big heart and some powerful politics! (And about 17 costume changes)
The piece is about personality/identity traits – what is your take on modern identities?
I don’t know! Tricky.I guess in many ways that it what the show explores – not to make a huge conclusion but to make the audience re-evaluate how they read identities. I think society is too keen to black and white situations, labeling everything into a binary that just does not work for most people.
You use multi-media in the show and it is a style trait you have included in many of your subsequent work. What is your relationship to this form? How does it inform your live performance?
In this piece it gives the show a very strong structure. Many of the scenes are improvised around but I’m controlled and cued by the video of when to move on and where to go next – in many ways it’s like a second performer on stage and we play off each other. I also think, at least in the way I used multimedia, it’s incredibly simple but very powerful – you can achieve effects and tricks that would require a cast of 7 just standing on stage on your own with a projector.
As its title may suggest Confessions of a Dancewhore includes both witty and barbed sections and parts which are very personal to you – do you feel it is important to temper the polished ‘entertainment’ shell with some personal revelation in performance?
Yes. I think there is very little point in creating work that is purely entertaining. It needs to in some way inform, educated or influence the audience. There is something unique about live performance and sharing a space with an audience that can not be replicated through Tv, Film or Radio but much theatre tries to be more like these three and ends up being quite dead. I feel during Confessions I utilise the live aspect of theatre and that life is evident to the audience, they know I’m not being lazy and going through the motions for them. Occasionally this can fail and there will be a drop in the energy in the performance – and for me that’s fine because it’s honest, it’s human and it’s a shared experience for the audience in the space.
The piece is quite serious at points – are you out to ‘say’ something and if so what?
Of course, I’ve always got lots to say. I don’t believe there is one conclusive message to take from the production. There are many; perhaps to reconsider your expectations of people, the battle for equality for all sexualities/genders but then also the right to have an independence from the ‘main stream’ if one chooses to.
You’ve said that it is about a gay man (aka you!) but it is not a ‘gay piece’ – can you expound on that?
It is about me, I am the model that is used to explore the issue of personality. And being gay is something prevalent in my personality. As with identity I don’t particularly like labels for shows/theatre. If it works for you to call it a ‘gay piece’ – then fine. But I’d prefer Queer as I feel it is very much a piece for anyone that has felt like ‘an other’. In fact, I’d prefer it was just called a piece or a show with out an adjective. But we can’t always get what we want!
Confessions was your first one man show, why have you decided to revive it for London Pride 2010?
The piece fits in very well with the idea of Pride – celebrating queer identity. When I first mounted the piece (Oval House 2007/2008) it was my first show and I couldn’t take it on any further as I felt I needed to build a body of work, build relationships with new venues and audiences. Now to have the opportunity to perform in the heart of London is fabulous – especially over Pride. Another reason for my involvement is that I used to moan that Pride had lost it’s politics – it was all clubbing and drinking. So I decided rather than moaning I’d try and change that with, hopefully, an engaging hour of theatre.
If you were to confess something to me now what would it be?
Well I’ve taken a break from baking a cake to chat to you. So at the moment, I’d confess that I like cake.
You’ve got a middle class white mother of three sat in front of you, what would you say to her to get her to come and see the show?
Mum? haha! No. I’d basically say: you will not have seen anything like this before! It is fabulous. There is vodka. You’ll love it. (And if one of your kids turns out to be Queer – you might even find it easier to relate to them.)
Confessions of a Dancewhore Trafalgar Studios 2, Mon 21st June – Sat 3rd July
Originally written for The Public Reviews