David Hoyle stripped down

Posted: Fri Oct 29 2010

It's 15 years since David Hoyle was first featured in Time Out. Paul Burston pays tribute to a true original

The man who once called himself The Divine David was first interviewed by Time Out on the roof of our building on Tottenham Court Road in 1995. In many ways it was a religious experience. He'd recently descended to London from Manchester, fuelled on vodka and an almost missionary zeal to challenge the queer status quo, and was drawing a small but devoted band of followers at the old Elephant & Castle pub in Vauxhall. A typical performance would see him lacerating the shallowness of the gay scene and cutting up his own skin.

Since then, he's become a regular at the RVT, had his own TV series on Channel 4, appeared in 'Nathan Barley' and Todd Haynes's glam rock film 'Velvet Goldmine' and attracted a host of celebrity supporters including Marc Almond, Maggi Hambing and The Pet Shop Boys. All before killing off his famous creation at Streatham Ice Arena, complete with lots of little Divine Davids on ice skates.

He then returned to Manchester and had a nervous breakdown, before returning six years later as David Hoyle and taking the queer cabaret scene by storm all over again.

And now he's back at the 'legitimate theatre'. Last year he performed as part of the Sacred season at the Chelsea Theatre at World's End (something tells us the words 'sacred' and 'world's end' appealed to his irreverent sense of humour). He returns to Sacred with a new show, 'David Hoyle's Factory'.

We first interviewed you as The Divine David. Where did that persona come from?
'The Divine David evolved from a crucible of disillusionment, disappointment and depression, distilled through humour in order to see the funny side and hear hope in laughter. Siouxsie Sioux, Bette Davis, the mythic allure of Veronica Lake, Northern pub and club humour, expressionism -- I'm sure they're all in the mix!'

You were very successful as The Divine David. What made you decide to kill him off?
'Looking back, I suppose it was some kind of wish fulfilment. I got on the ride and I ended up on the telly. I felt out of my depth. I became quite frightened and felt it was time to dare to live my life without the raison d'etre of the previous ten years. I had to kill off The Divine David, who had given me so much but at an inestimable cost. I learned to live with deep trauma while bouncing on the trampoline of humour in stilettos.'

You took a six-year hiatus before coming back as David Hoyle. Why the name change?
'I decided to be the combination of letters on a yellowing piece of paper - my birth certificate. Again, “being oneself” can be a huge battle for some of us. But I would say there is little difference between my stage persona now and my stage persona then. I have a sense of time now I didn't have then. Mortality beckons. Focus is the function.'

You can be pretty ferocious on stage, but you've always insisted that your work is all about love.
'Love is most important. Maybe naively, I think of it as a fast-track to nirvana. But we could harness it more. Love as motivator and motivation. My relationship with love is as tortured as anyone's.'

You're performing at the Chelsea Theatre. What can we expect?
'The audience can expect song, socialisation, creative participation and immortality. This is a communal work, a sweatshop for the soul! I've said it before but I'll say it again. Together we shall overcome!'

‘David Hoyle’s Factory’ is at the Chelsea Theatre Nov 12-13.