Jack Cullen

Stage review

Hoyle's War

REVIEW: David Hoyle's Winter Warmer @ RVT

London's gay scene had few finer delights last night than the silhouette of two fantastic legs – standing on the stage of Royal Vauxhall Tavern, beautifully wrapped in black hold-ups. "Some men prefer rugby player’s legs don’t they? These are Broadway legs. You might not believe it but I used to play rugby as a kid. I was good at running up the sides you see, and for a brief time... a hooker. That's what it was like in the north back then. You had to live off your wits"

Wearing a charred black wig with make-up that is deadlier than a tropical frog, this is David Hoyle, the anti-hero of British gay culture, the Eris of celebrity. Like an alcoholic widow, a gaunt gigolo, a starved hyena in fascist lipstick, a friendly serial killer on parole, the Minotaur's slutty drug-skinny cousin - David Hoyle is a living myth, and this, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, is the living room of his underworld.

Pleasuring all that stands before him and then murdering it in his wake, Hoyle commands a perilously loyal fan base of drag-gag-addicts who will throw any given sum of money and possibly skive their own mother's funeral if it means getting to hear words fall out of Hoyle's caked lips. And beneath all of it lies the soft core that we have all come to stroke. David. David the little boy from the north who never could get his head around convention.

"When you think about how much semen straight boys waste..." ponders Hoyle mixing the introspect of a Pinter monologue with the clammer of a pissed-off aunt, "...on an Umbro sock. These boring working class boys, who had shit all education, they spend their entire lives in damp council flats, completely confined within their gender role, and it's not until their dying seconds that it occurs to them 'Would it really have killed me if I came in a man's mouth?' - 'Would it REALLY have killed me?' No. No it wouldn't have. You see, life's for sharing", and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern trembles with gulps of bearish laughter. Hoyle’s head darts with accusation at those who laugh, staring them back into silence.

I disliked Hoyle’s first guest Andi Fraggs. An awkwardly styled “electro star” fully equipped with pseudo-angst and a feature fringe, Fraggs stamped about in front a pull-down screen that displayed his own dodgy music videos, unintentionally flirting with hard-line satire. What could have perhaps been an interesting electro-pop homage to Hammer Horror fell far short of watertight entertainment. More like a theatrically-dressed ticket puncher at the London Dungeons than a pop star, a particular lowlight of Fraggs' set was watching him bulldoze his way through an offensively monotone cover of Kate Bush's Wow, shamelessly dismissing all of the song's melodic trimmings, a song which is ironically about the sealed fate of an eager artist with inflexible talents. It was admirable to see Hoyle supportively offer his platform to a weak act, no doubt injecting confidence and giving Fraggs a stamp of approval, but any potential that Hoyle sees in Fraggs was nowhere to be seen last night.

David's second guest was much stronger and came in the trantastic form of arthouse showstopper Zsa Zsa Noir. She enthralled the audience with a fusion of high-end trash, pornographic lyrics and onstage tomfoolery, not forgetting a deliberately bad Erasure cover. Towering over the audience like an eastern European dominatrix Noir cantered through a handful of her homegrown electro hits. "Have you heard of Crisco everybody?" she asks. "For those who don't know, it's a type of vegetable oil that is used for fisting. So, this is my next song, it's called Crisco Fags Are Coming To My Disco" and she's off again - chasing the ambitious tempo and sharp corners of her own computer dance garble whilst dowsing two bin-bag-clad volunteer dancers in whipped cream. As a closing ceremony Hoyle briefly interviews Noir before creating one of his speed paintings of her on recycled black paper.

The final section of the show is pure Hoyle. His hatred of societal ignorance, his prayers for world peace, his Butlerian agenda and his now canonised obsession with shit. It’s a classic Hoylian climate. A mad hatter’s rant packaged to look like a group discussion. Poetic punch lines link arms with stark humiliation, underpinned by a current of fear, sex and confusion. Everything is varnished with the threat of truth.

Some have written Hoyle off an embittered stage hack, drowned by his own stench of TV rejection, self-confined to the underground by a failure to win mainstream recognition. This Christmas Hoyle proves his critics wrong. Hoyle is Vauxhall's elected Grinch, the 1% of stains that cannot be removed, and his crackpot views have never been timelier. Behind Hoyle’s hilarity, hardcore imagery and high-art lies a religious artefact, a Hoyly Grail, if you will. Hoyle is the thinking-gay’s secret weapon of mass destruction and it excites me to think that we might be closer than ever to pushing that red button.


Catch David Hoyle's Winter Warmers at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern every Thursday for the next four weeks.

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