David Hoyle aka the Divine David
Time Out welcomes back the artist formerly known as the Divine David
Six years ago, David Hoyle took to his blades at the Streatham Ice Arena and spectacularly killed off the Divine David. The persona he had created a decade earlier had established a unique position in London’s queer cultural life, a sort of anti-drag act caustically lamenting the narcissism of the gay mainstream – ‘the biggest suicide cult in history’ – through song, dance, painting and whatever else took his fancy. In many ways he was an idealistic, even visionary, creation, although the constructive element to his diatribes wasn’t always the focus of the response.
‘In a way the Divine David became the patron saint of decadence and nihilism and all the rest of it, and it’s hard for that not to affect your own actions,’ Hoyle recalls. In the end, he felt, the character was doing him more harm than good. ‘As much as I used to say, “Oh yes, you have to be very sure of your identity to be doing all this business,” I don’t think I actually was. If you’re used to creating aliases and camouflage and all that sort of palaver, eventually you have to peel it all away and work out who you are.’
What followed was a period of reflection characterised, Hoyle wryly confides, by extended contemplation of the wallpaper in his Manchester flat – ‘just rocking to and fro, you know, the days merging, the seasons coming and going.’ Going cold turkey from performing ‘was very, very difficult to start with, really weird. I’m convinced my body was still producing massive amounts of adrenaline,’ but it also offered an overdue chance to get to know the neighbours; they’ve recently succeeded in creating a housing association-backed communal garden, ‘and that gave me more satisfaction than anything, really.’
Communing with nature also played its part in Hoyle’sreturn to performance (along with a rather fab role as a self-obsessed pop mogul in Chris Morris’s ‘Nathan Barley’). As part of last year’s ‘It’s Queer Up North’ festival, he made a garden inside the Contact Theatre in Manchester. ‘The run was extended because people were just going in. It was an entity. The bamboos were growing about six or seven inches a day – you had to be careful where you stood.’
It was at this time that he met Sarah Frankcom, who directed his return to the stage – ‘David Hoyle’s SOS’, which comes to the Soho Theatre next week – as part of ‘It’s Queer Up North’ this year. ‘If it is a comeback then it’s David Hoyle who’s coming back, not the Divine David. I’m convinced that the Divine David’s definitely got rigor mortis. Even though I died on ice, I think the body’s gone in the lime pit.’ So for the first time he’s playing it straight(ish). ‘At 43 I just thought, well, maybe you should just try being David Hoyle, see how it goes.’
Accordingly, ‘SOS’ is more autobiographical than earlier work. ‘This show’s inspired by my childhood, really. I’m from Blackpool so you’ve got all that showbusiness seaside stuff going on. It was quite innocent – just good fun. I’d like to think I’m bringing the seaside to Soho – during those five days, nobody need go to Brighton or anywhere, all they have to do is go up Dean Street.’
Admirers of the performer’s moves will also be gratified to hear that ‘dance will be fully celebrated. I’ll definitely be sharing my love of dance. Because dance to me transcends language, it’s a vocabulary all of its own.’ With costumes by Sandy Powell – who worked with Derek Jarman, on Todd Haynes’ ‘Velvet Goldmine’ (in which Hoyle had a part) and won an Oscar for Scorsese’s ‘The Aviator’ – there should be no shortage of razzle-dazzle, though the title’s pun – is that Show of Shows or Save Our Souls? – suggests the familiar acerbic sensibility won’t be buried too deeply.
If the louche pleasures of last month’s informal one-off ‘When David Met Justin’ (a ‘Desert Island Discs’-style two-hander with Justin Bond – aka Kiki of Kiki & Herb – at Bush Hall) is anything to go by, Hoyle is relishing his return to the stage, revitalised by what he calls his ‘40 days and 40 nights’. ‘I don’t want to be one of these people who’s going to go on about my drugs hell or whatever – blah, blah, blah – because on the whole I’ve enjoyed life, whatever’s gone on. But things are different now. They have to be. And it’s nice when friends say “you’re looking well”, you know, as opposed to “you’re looking like a corpse,” or “you look like you’ve got TB.” ’
- Add your comment to this feature