Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Review of The Libertine Has Left The Building by Michael Twaits
Ginger Hibiscus | Review of The Libertine Has Left The Building by Michael Twaits
Ginger Hibiscus | Review of The Libertine Has Left The Building by Michael Twaits
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01 Dec REVIEW: Michael Twaits’ The Libertine has Left the Building at the Mimetic Festival

Michael Twaits‘ cutting-edge theatre/cabaret show The Libertine Has Left the Building carries the burden of expectations- and high ones at that- having won the Mimetic 2014 audience bursary before the show had even really been conceived. The bursary was decided by public vote following a social media campaign, which Twaits won largely on the back of his reputation as a cabaret artist, and his last show,Confessions of a Dancewhore, which was received to hearty praise. A quick disclaimer: I didn’t get to see Confessions, so can only talk about the show in isolation without comparisons or discussing progression. Whilst that’s a shame in itself (I get the feeling it would be particularly fertile ground), The Libertine Has Left the Building stands firmly as a show in its own right, explicitly not a sequel, and so it’s being reviewed as such.

One man shows have this capacity to feel quite flat, to stagnate as the show runs its course, for feet to get itchy and for the rustling to begin. But everything about Twaits’ show keeps audiences engaged, from the clever use of chaptering to his kaleidoscope of visual stimuli, creating a cohesive show out of a series of great ideas. The central idea underpinning it all is personality. How personality changes, or stays the same. How we can present ourselves differently to suit different situations. And in the light of all this, what it means to be true to yourself. We get to meet an assortment of different Michaels; the stand up comic; the poet; the singer; the drag artist; and so many more. But then there’s a magical moment where he just has to “be himself”…

Michael Twaits is in so many ways incredibly familiar. He has a natural warmth, a flair, a charisma. He fits into lots of nice, neat societally-imposed boxes. He has dark hair, he’s slim, he’s British. But as we watch him, amongst the recognition of something in common is a fascinating perspective on how we look at differences between people, and our attitudes to those differences. Twaits uses the example of drag queens, almost as a metaphor for the LGBT community, appearing on stage in full drag, his unshaven legs distinguishing him from other drag artists. He takes a community that many see as “the other” and then demonstrates that within any group, there are so many differences between people, so much variety that it feels extremely reductionist to want to define people by just one characteristic, be that gender or sexuality or anything else. When we interviewed him a while back, he told us that, ”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.”

The beauty of the show is the way it is presented, turning big ideas into little bitesize mouthfuls. With abundant and effective use of video projections and music, the show permits us to think about art and science and mathematics all at once, along with thoughts on behaviour, acceptance and norms. It’s a unique format, arguably with a bit of an identity crisis – but maybe that just means it doesn’t fit into any of those nice, neat societally-imposed boxes.

Before seeing The Libertine Has Left the Building, it seemed to promise to be thought-provoking rather than dictatorial, to be entertaining and challenging. And it excelled at all of that. As the first ever run out of the show, it feels that it will continue to develop and further improve over time, but as it stands, it is certainly a thoroughly engaging piece of theatrical art.

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here