Confessions of a Dancewhore
Written, directed and performed by Michael Twaits
Oval House Theatre
Confessions of A Dancewhore appears to have its roots in vaudeville but whilst traditionally vaudeville presents a number of artists to provide a variety of acts, this is a one-man show where Michael Twaits, its creator and director, does it all, he even compiled the visuals.
Twaits takes the issue of "the contradictions and clichés of contemporary British queer life" as a theme to hang together a sequence of sketches. But what comes across in performance is a series of views on identity, some of which work better than others and none of which would stand in isolation.
The piece opens with whorey-mouthed in-yer-face Lady M, a drag-show hostess who is as ready to abuse audience members who arrive late as she is to climb amongst the seats and sit in the lap of a "hottie".
Twaits was visibly shaking with nerves which were rattled further by a microphone that kept cutting out. It didn't help the delivery of Lady M, a graceless tart, that she looks all the clumsier because Twaits does not even have a table on which to put his props, so we see a lot of the top of her head as she continually bends over to pick things up from the floor.
The sketch also dragged (excuse the pun!) because in order to play 'Never Have I Ever' the gimmick of providing the audience with a G&T each held up the action and the pay-off wasn't quite worth the wait.
Lady M - having dropped her frock to reveal a hideous leotard - left us to witness "theatrical explorations into self, a dichotomy of camp".
In one sketch Twaits has a conversation with a projected visual who asks 'what are we doing here' to which Twaits replies, 'I thought it was a nice theatrical device" - it was, and it was well executed too, but it was also a device for Twaits to ask questions without really having to do the hard bit - answer them!
By leaving trains of thought unresolved with the next sketch being cued by a costume dropping out of a trap door, the " what are society's rules? - where is the real me? - are we always performing?"-type questions came across as hackneyed. This was rather unworthy in a piece that has some steely moments that cut through the artifice of the character to make a cutting commentary on society.
You could almost hear the gulp of the audience when Twaits questioned the morality of obsessively looking for a single child when hundreds were dying of AIDS daily; hands up in the audience if you can find Burma on a map ...
Confessions of A Dancewhore was initially seen as part of the FiRST BiTES programme at The Oval House as a work-in-progress, and Twaits has been developing it further (in collaboration with Lucy Ellinson and Bette Bourne). His work is not yet done.
Amongst the well-intentioned padding there is material which has substance; there is also wit and incision. There are a good many staging ideas which Twaits carries off well. Were he to distil the show to create its essence he would have a very powerful piece of theatre.
What he needs to do next is hard - Michael Twaits the director needs to cut the work of Michael Twaits the writer. Go forth with your scalpel, Mr Twaits, 'less is more'.
"Confessions of A Dancewhore" runs to Saturday 27th October 2007, Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00pm. Tickets £12 / £6 concessions. Tuesday 16th there is a post-show event with the creative team. This production is not suitable for children. Photograph by Pavlunka.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti