Sunday, December 3

David Hoyle: Ten Commandments – Soho Theatre

Humanity is paying a price for not listening to David Hoyle. In the heady ‘90s, when Hoyle performed as the Divine David, he would howl at the crowds, ‘Don’t go to the gym, go to the library’. 

The message, delivered with smeared mascara, spit and rage was driven by a righteous fear that society’s obsession with external appearance would destroy intellectual evolution and spiritual growth. That sage decree was delivered long before Twitter thirst traps, armies of Instagram charlatans and the quiet destruction of public libraries. 

Hoyle was a queer canary down the mine. Today, young children are increasingly cursed with eating disorders, Botox is bigger than de Beauvoir and since 2010, at least 773 libraries have closed. Even if we wished to heed Hoyle’s advice, it’s too late. The genie is out of the bottle and devouring our souls.

Ten Commandments returns to Soho Theatre after a sell-out run earlier this year and we find Hoyle in caustic, unpredictable and chaotic form. The performance witnessed by North West End UK might be radically different to the same show the following night. This is a blessing for the audience, who get an exclusive, white-knuckle ride into unhinged improvisation, but a challenge for the creative team who may be aiming for consistency and discipline.  Like Kate Bush, Hoyle is unique in his field and unwilling to court the establishment or compromise his art. Coincidentally, they both look good in a body stocking. 

For anyone with a thirst for Dada-fuelled theatrical trips or performance art purity, David Hoyle is essential viewing. He has no competition in that field. His shows are uncomfortable, darkly hilarious, provocative and terrifying. Nobody baits and berates an audience quite like Hoyle. There are no half measures or easy platitudes. 

In part of his septic sermon, Hoyle admitted that he, ‘would not rest’ until Trafalgar Square runs red with the blood of those who profit from healthcare, housing and education. We are throatily urged to ‘kill everyone in authority’ as he stalks the stage in a scary, but beautiful dress made of teddy bears. 

Ten Commandments is neither a call to arms nor a life hack to a declining society. It’s a mirror on our collective failure to halt the rot, and a savage reflection on fame, greed and complacency. At one point Hoyle muses that his lack of commercial success stems from an unwillingness to ‘be mediocre’. Undoubtedly, that was a contributing factor.

The show also features some brilliant visuals from Lee Baxter and haunting music from experimental composer Richard Torry. Ten Commandments is a brutal slap to the face and a sharp howl from the heart. If, like Hoyle, you’ve tried to change society and been bruised by the fight, this show will speak to your wounds. For everyone else, it’s an unholy homily asking awkward but necessary questions.  

Reviewer: Stewart Who?

Reviewed: 26th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★