views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Libertine has Left the Building
Mimetic 2 (The Vaults)
26th November 2014


Michael Twaits

Photography provided by Mimetic Festival

Michael Twaits is a fascinating man. This we know because we had a good long chinwag with him in advance of the Mimetic Festival starting. He's a cabaret singer, a drag act, an actor - and an all-round artist. Having previously stormed the circuit with Confessions of a Dancewhore (among others) this bursary winner is back with The Libertine has Left the Building, a vaguely political look at identity and everything that's happened to Twaits in the past seven years.

Apparently this is not a sequel to Dancewhore (we know because he told us!) but it feels like the continuation of something that's gone before, rather than a show which necessarily stands on its own. Twaits shows a lot of different ideas, techniques and facets of himself, making for a varied piece of storytelling which is never less than compelling. But there's a sparkle missing at the centre of it all - he's settled down, got himself a mortgage and gay rights in the UK have never been more codified. What's left to be angry about?

In a piece of poetry, Twaits complains about being stereotyped, but he just doesn't seem that annoyed. As he points out, he's never had it so good. Yes, the Vaults are not the most glamorous of venues, but he's established, he has an audience and, well, he really did want that mortgage after all. In a way, I almost want to give him a really bad review so he has something to get angry about and to bring out more passion, but I can't do that. The Libertine has Left the Building is an enjoyable performance, perfectly positioned in the middle of the road.

Early on, Twaits tackles mathematics - as an accountant, believe me, I do not go to the theatre to see the Fibonacci sequence projected in front of me - marvelling at a beauty he sees in the figures. (If he really loves the number seven that much, he's welcome to cover for me in the day job and see how he still feels about adding up after seven hours with a calculator.) He also lip syncs for us, sings, and recites poetry with perfect rhythm. As we've said, a man of many talents.

Twaits is at his most engaging and comfortable when he's interacting with the audience, chatting about his "politick" and demystifying drag. Watching him play with gender is captivating and when he finally belts out a few tunes, we realise this man can really sing. He tries to pack a lot of ideas into the show, but next time, a bit more music would be great - there's nothing wrong with playing to your strengths. Of course, having done that previously in the Red Shoes, it's understandable he might want to give that a wide berth this time.

Twaits has clearly ended up in Mimetic 2 because of the use of multimedia, but I can't help but think he would have been more at home in the venue's Cabaret Bar, with better access to his audience. In going for the clever tech, he's had to put a bit more distance between himself and his crowd, and he's the sort of performer who feeds off their energy. I do like what he's done with the multimedia, but not at the expense of that connection.

Happiness it turns out is Kryptonite for a performer, but it's hard to wish anything but happiness on Twaits. The Libertine has Left the Building may be slow in places, but we enjoy spending time with him. Twaits wants to give us a shared experience, something more intimate than other acts, and whilst we could have had more fun in a cosier space, we do leave the building feeling closer to him. The Libertine has Left the Building is a lovingly crafted and very personal piece of storytelling.

The Libertine has Left the Building opened on 25th November and runs until 29th November 2014 at The Vaults, as part of Mimetic Festival.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee)

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