Ginger Hibiscus | INTERVIEW: Michael Twaits
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01 Nov INTERVIEW: Michael Twaits

The third year of the Mimetic Festival opens at its new home, the Waterloo Vaults, on Tuesday 18th November, running until Saturday 29th November. Lighting up the vaults with a wealth of cutting-edge theatre and cabaret, the festival showcases the very best devised, physical and visual theatre, puppetry and cabaret on offer.

Amongst the acts, is Michael Twaits‘ cutting-edge theatre/cabaret show The Libertine Has Left the Building, which won the Mimetic 2014 audience bursary, a bursary decided by public vote to help with the costs of putting this kind of show together.

We got to spoke to Michael about his life, his inspiration, his new show The Libertine Has Left The Building, and what it’s like trying to follow up a show as successful as his last, Confessions of a Dancewhore. To begin with, he explained where it all began…

When I was at drama school studying to be a traditional jobbing actor, I wrote a theatre show for my dissertation; it was based on the concept of multiple personalities – post modern self as an academic would call it – around how you can be different people around different people. At drama school I was playing with the idea that I could use the more academic version of me to audition for one role, or the younger me to audition for another role, or any version of me to try to win a role in the best possible way.

But then the show developed a lot and it became more of an autobiographical piece, exploring the different sides to a personality. It also looked at a lot of the variety within the LGBT community. At drama school I experienced a lot of reverse type casting; I was never put in a role that would be something that was easy for me to play, I was never allowed to play anyone gay or flamboyant. The teachers’ argument was “well you need to be able to play everything,” but I wanted to show that just because I am a gay character, that doesn’t mean that the character is exactly the same as me. So in Confessions, I play an array of about 7 or 8 different gay men on stage.

The heart of the show in many ways were the bits where I met myself 7 years younger. There’s an urban myth that all the cells in your body regenerate every 7 years, so I asked the question “what keeps you you,” consistently, why don’t you become a different person, why don’t things change more?

So now, another 7 years on, I’m coming back to the original question to write a new show. I’m finding it hard not to use the word “sequel,” because it’s not a sequel – you don’t have to have seen the first one to see the second one. It’s about moving forwards and life changing, and how that affects you as a person, and as an artist. When I was writing my first show, I was at drama school working 4 or 5 jobs, thousands of pounds in debt, living in a horrible flat…now I’m an established-ish actor and cabaret artist, I have a nice house, I have a nice partner. Life’s very different, I’m coming from a very different place.

I quite often joke about the fact that when I was younger and life was harder, it was so much easier to write good material. But you grow as you get older – I don’t like to refer to myself as old – but old-er. I think you become more critical and less brave with your work. That’s not to say it’s less exciting, but I do think I had the arrogance of youth, I had complete conviction in my work. When I first performed Confessions it was my first ever show and if it wasn’t great, that wasn’t the end of the world, nobody knew who I was. Whereas now, I think I have a much better eye for quality control. Because of that I’m going through a much longer process, and I think I will have a much better show as a result. I want it to be moving my body of work forward, but also I want it to represent exactly where I am now as well.

It does put pressure on you, but that’s why I’m so delighted with the bursary- because it means I’ve got a lot more freedom and a lot more time and a lot less constraint. It means I’ve got time to sit down in a room for 3 days and just bash it out. So with the time I’ve got now prior to going into the rehearsal space, I’m going to have so many different versions of the show or options to put in shape, rather than going in there with 20 minutes of solid stuff and then all these ideas. I think I’m going to have a 3.5 hour show to whittle down into an hour! The show is at a very exciting stage, in that I haven’t actually shown it to anyone else yet, so it’s very early days. I’m working with 5 different artists, a day with each of them- people with different backgrounds, that have different relationships with me and my work to knock it around and whip it into shape.

It’s a show that promises to be thought-provoking rather than dictatorial, to entertain and to challenge. If, like us, you can’t wait to see how the final show comes together, you can catch The Libertine Has Left the Building at Mimetic 2014, between 25th-29th November. And if that’s not enough, Michael is also the resident host at Finger in the Pie cabaret.

For further information on Mimetic 2014:

For tickets: