Monday, 9 November 2009

Icons - Lowry Theatre, Salford (Tour)

Writer: Michael Twaits

Reviewer: Clare Howdon

After the success of ‘Confessions of a Dance Whore’, Michael Twaits is back and touring with ‘Icons’, a multi layered cabaret romp through the cult of and modern day obsession with celebrity. As with ‘Confessions’, Twaits assumes the role of writer and sole performer and fuses a plethora of styles as he masterfully transports his audience on a metaphorical journey through the pages of Heat magazine and the lives of three fictional characters who have somehow been affected by the emergence of the Celebrity.

It is difficult not to compare ‘Icons’ to its predecessor and this piece once again reflects Twaits’ intelligence and subtlety as a writer and performer. A section of the show which explores Jade Goody’s life and death within the media spotlight could have easily resulted in an excruciatingly uncomfortable and juvenile piece of theatre. However the sensitive and engaged handling of this subject matter leaves the audience to reflect and form their own opinions.

‘Icons’ explores every area of celebrity culture and the three characters that we are confronted with; Lucky, a parody of a Britney Spears obsessed reality TV star, who constantly undergoes the surgeon’s knife in her desperate quest for success and happiness; Gary Glitter fan Alex Heath and of course the much loved acid-tongued drag queen Lady M, all contrast beautifully with each other opening up and exploring the various angles of celebrity culture. They are also a great vehicle for performer Twaits who delivers a master class in versatility and audience rapport.

As with any pieces of this ilk, there are parts that work better than others, but it is unarguable that when it works, it works extremely well. Light and camp interactions with the audience and a delightfully fruity rendition of Barbara Streisand’s ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ (complete with a Britney Spears mash up) is interspersed with a truly captivating and politically engaging musical commentary on Stonewall and the influence of Judy Garland on the Queer revolution.

Alex heath is also a beautifully crafted albeit aesthetically uncomfortable exploration into the media intrusion of a celebrities private life. Delivered as a nervous speech by the founder of a tribute website, Twait’s writing really comes into its own here and asks the audience some challenging questions - notably why can’t we just appreciate the art, and leave the artist alone. With the recent celebrity deaths of Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger and Jan Moir’s abhorrent and mis-informed intrusion into the circumstances surrounding the late Steven Gatley’s untimely death, Twaits certainly shows that he has his finger on the pulse.

This is undeniably an exciting and refreshing piece of theatre. The writing, assured performance and the innovative use of multimedia make ‘Icons’ a joy to watch. As with ‘Confessions of a Dancewhore’ this piece is thought provoking rather than conclusive. ‘Icons’ never feels preachy or emotionally manipulative and this is one of its major strengths. What results from this is an entertaining, relevant and provocative hour of theatre.

Icons is touring for more information click here
frontpage hit counter