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1 September 2000
ART for art's sake

Louise Gray: Time Out Student Guide

A welcome alternative to stand-up, or a lanky geezer with bad maker up?
We think the former...
Louise Gray met up with The Divine David, a man who's come closer than most to giving political cabaret a good name.

"Good evening, ladies 'und!' gentlemen!" The 'und!' is exaggerated with a plosive precision, and the apparition that utters it, an elegantly tall man who's style and trowelled on make up defy gender, waves away the rapturous applause that greets him. "Some of you may have come to The Divine David's Inn Season because you're under the impression that you're gay." He pulls a face: labels, designer or otherwise, are an anathema to his message. "Well, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: sexuality is a fluid thing. Some of us have weeginas (he belongs to the weni, widi, wici school of Latin pronunciation), some don't. But remember: you are all beautiful. You are the future!"

Since 1996, when The Divine David became a regular at Duckie - the most consistently interesting club, gay or otherwise, in London - the Manchester-based artist has established himself as one of the most acerbic satirical performers of the decade. Often ridiculous, always hilarious, his performances tread a fine line between incitement to riot and abject danger.

Numerous one-man shows - now accompanied by the ethereal Jay Cloth, a mute, sinister presence ("He's been with me ever since I played with a ouija board when I was 12") - and a TV series, The Divine David Presents, have brought him a wider audience, but nothing can prepare the newcomer for the live Divine David experience, coming soon to a London venue near you.

The anarchic qualities of The Divine David are deceptive. For all the real anger present, he's actually a fierce proponent of individuality and, along with it, individual responsibility. At times, he'll stop the show after catching a far-away sound, unheard by anyone else. "Oh, a man's been run over in Peckham", he'd say. "He never did write the poem he'd been meaning to." In answer to those who insist on labels, he affirms, "Be your name. Whatever it is, be yourself. Don't fit yourself . Don't fit yourself into any pre-ordained identity."

The Divine David is the creation of David Hoyle, a 37-year-old who spent his formative years beneath the shadow of the Blackpool Tower. The persona first manifested itself ten years ago in Manchester pubs and clubs, his lightening wit quickly gaining him a cult following with a crowd that was both liberated by opportunities following the pink pound boom and yet uneasy with the way it fostered vapid gay identity, predicated on gym queens and conspicuous consumption. "Apolitical sex zombies are go," he sneers. "Human life is beautiful, and if you meet anyone who says otherwise, kill them and mount their head in a slide."

To this end, he's engaged in a campaign to further an art form that will allow everyone the opportunity to enhance their creative potential while earning a crust. "Lap- and pole-dancing is, anthropologically and economically, where it's at," he pronounces. "A lot of people, particularly students, are not going to go into their chosen careers immediately, so it's as well to have a practical skill to fall back on. I'm trying to get the Minister for Education interested in teaching both disciplines from primary school on."

More than just offering momentary gratification, The Divine David is convinced of the social critique contained within. "It acknowledges the way society is run" - Hoyle is in the full grip of the divine now - "and in the future, we'll be divided between those who do and those who watch. The House of Commons will soon be adopting it. No more of the ayes to the right, nays to the left. The Speaker will simply ask all those who agree with the motion to please slide down their pole in a provocative manner. It's going to be at the heart of the democratic process."

Never one to shirk his own responsibilities, The Divine David has been ending his own recent shows with exuberantly alarming displays of pole dancing. Bottles fly as he clambers onto a ledge and shimmies up a ceiling support at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a beloved if sleazy riverside backwater that's soon to be bulldozed. "Personally, I've got a very supportive audience and a very supportive pole. It's not custom-made - one does what one can - but with the support of the audience, I'm propelled higher and higher up my pole. I can touch the ceiling with the tips of my stilettos".

It's a maniacal sight, one to be relished in it's white-hot brilliance. as he waves his heels towards Westminster, it's clear that Hoyle and The Divine David have their joint sights set on power.

High may his pole rise.

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