Confessions of a Dancewhore is a sensual and intellectual feast, an episodic exploration of contemporary queer male identity which could very loosely be described as cabaret but which pushes the form to extremes.
Its creator, Michael Twaits, is a compelling performer whose combination of rage, defiant eccentricity and irresistible vulnerability brings to mind at times a young Quentin Crisp, at times Sebastian Horsley, even occasionally Robert Lepage. Confessions of a Dancewhore is visually and aurally inventive, structurally audacious and polemically forceful.
It’s just that, for me, the polemic didn’t quite hang together as a whole. I was deeply moved at some points, and visually delighted at others. At some moments I believed this postmodern manifesto for multiple queer identities. But overall, I couldn’t quite shake off a sense of the gaps and prejudices within the forcefully delivered argument.
The finale, for instance, is either sophisticated or infuriating. So far we have had intriguing fusions of club tracks, arty projections and dance; edgily re-written covers of show tunes; stream of consciousness monologues including a short lecture on the function of the subconscious. Then at the end, Twaits dons a Barbie wig and prom dress to belt out an apparently sincere rendering of “Somewhere that’s Green”, the slut-turned-homemaker’s anthem from Little Shop of Horrors.
Maybe it’s a clever, ironic exposition of how difficult it still is for homosexual couples to have a normative relationship without appearing as freaks. Or maybe it’s a boy in a frock talking about how he wants to bake pies and do the hoovering because that’s what real girls do. I hope it’s the former. But I’m not completely sure.
Other episodes do hit their mark. A re-working of the murderess’ song from Chicago looks at homophobia and homophobic hate crime in contemporary London, and gets in a much-needed dig at the staggering injustice of Theresa May being appointed Minister for Equality. This man can really put a song across, and he channels the satirical anger of the original brilliantly into his own new version. Here, the combination of hard camp and harder polemic is exhilarating and convincing. This also shone out elsewhere, including an added encore, written for the Pride Festival, honouring the Stonewall protesters.
Confessions of a Dancewhore is extremely inventive and unexpectedly personal for a West End show. I’m glad I went, though I'm sure this interesting and compelling performer has more consistent and cogent work to come. I will certainly be booking a ticket to his next show to find out.