Written for Whats On Stage 20 November 2009
There is something terribly beautiful about the rawness of Michael Twaits’ work and something rather spiritual about it too. He’s not afraid to reveal all to his audience, offering himself up completely on an alter to the gods. It is therefore fitting that in his new show Twaits takes us through an exploration of our new holy of holies; celebrities.
Icons is a caustic multi-media cabaret that is as far away from the calm religious portraits of the past as Jesus is from Jade Goody. But maybe these two figures are closer than we like to think; as Twaits rather eerily puts it, “If Heat is the celebrity Bible, Jade Goody is its parable”.
It’s this mixture of wit and scary insight that makes Icons more than just a pithy piece of celebrity fun. Twaits is out to find the meaning of our modern icons and he does so using both sparkly schadenfreude and a disturbing amount of common sense. We are introduced to Lucky, a Britney Spears fan who is trying to transcend herself and literally become Britney (if she could eat her body and drink her blood you genuinely feel she would), a hesitant yet defiant Garry Glitter obsessive and of course the fabulous Lady M, Twaits’ infamous drag alter ego.
Whirling through a blend of video footage, Q&A sessions, monologues and songs, we’re plunged into their obsessions, seeing them in all their desperate neediness and vulnerability. At points it’s a bit of a messy journey, with not all the sequences totally working, but holistically Icons packs a punch. For although Twaits’ vicious wit is out in force, so is his empathy, and through our laughter we feel for these star worshippers. Because in the midst of all this glitter and gold it’s the sad realisation that our icons have fallen from their celestial posts that hits you the hardest. In the face of their fall where does this leave us mere mortals?
Twaits’ greatest skill is the ability to marry the frivolous with the serious and in the midst of all this fluff to make you think. The defining number of the night comes as Lady M heart-stoppingly sings “Stonewall”, Twaits’ joyously defiant song. In this moment, as Judy Garland inspires a group of individuals to change the course of their lives, you are transcended from the mundane to the sublime and surely whether religious or famous, that’s the purpose of a modern icon.