Diamond, Soho Theatre

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by guest critic Gregory Forrest

What a mess! David Hoyle’s exploration of rainbow Britain and his own career is a rather queer turn of events. It plays. It experiments. It breaks. Above all, it asks whether there may be something truly radical in messiness. And it never gives a straight answer.

2017 marks fifty years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexual ‘behaviour’ between consenting adults in the UK, and sixty years since the Wolfenden Report recommended this as the best course of action for Parliament. A diamond anniversary, of sorts. The fact that it took our establishment a whole decade of chattering over details, while systematic prejudice and prosecution was rife, is a sourness Hoyle does not leave untasted.

Diamond, intersects the iconic performer and activist’s narrative of self-discovery with our nation’s LGBT+ story. It is a smart way of giving the evening a backbone, and yet even this structure contorts. The performance exists beyond common sense, while a vital target of Hoyle’s wit is the normal, the brainwashed, and the common. In queerness, it would seem, we find beautiful logic in this nonsense.

Support from drag troupe The LipSinkers is patchy at best. Their campy glamour lacks coherence, and, well, jokes. Nevertheless, in a political climate where right-wing kickbacks are frequently seeking to re-establish the gender binary, drag remains an inherently political act. And they are clearly having fun with it.

Still, I am desperate for a more incisive politics. Sweeping brushstrokes are made, shifting from Tory paedophiles to global arms dealers, and yet by lacking any contextual specificity, the canvas ends up in the realms of abstract expressionism. Or, as Hoyle puts it, ‘There’s something inadvertently avant-garde going on…’

One memorable moment stands out. Hoyle’s critique of the DUP is picked up by an audience member, who disrupts the proceedings to discuss Northern Ireland’s first ever lesbian marriage. Wires seem to be crossed in the conversation, and yet it reveals Hoyle’s openness to be educated by his audience. He is a confident and clever performer, but it’s still a mess.

Put simply, Diamond‘s deepest faults are simultaneously its greatest strengths; and it has both in abundance.

Diamond runs through 18 November.

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