The Prime of Ms David Hoyle post-show round-up

Posted · Add Comment

Ms David Hoyle, Simone Simone and Prefect Ben (aka me) in The Prime of Ms David Hoyle at Chelsea Theatre (Image by Holly Revell)

Education is a lifelong process, and last month I had the huge privilege of getting my teeth into one hell of a learning curve: producing, directing and appearing on-stage in a two-week run of a show called The Prime of Ms David Hoyle at Chelsea Theatre.

Taking education as its theme, the production showcased the legendary David Hoyle, framing him as an inspirational teacher and the audience as students at Ms Hoyle’s Academy, with Thom Shaw as classroom assistant Simone Simone and myself as the Prefect. (I wore shorts.)

In the first half, Ms Hoyle took aim at the post-Victorian structures of control in which our schools and universities are still largely rooted. In the second half, she led an exploration of utopian ideas about how education could work differently.

Guest performers were introduced as visiting professors (Marisa Carnesky, Penny Arcade, Christeene) or former star pupils (more than 20 graduates of real-life queer cabaret training programmes the Duckie Homosexualist Summer School, whose latest course was overseen by Ursula Martinez; and Carnesky’s Finishing School, whose pop-up Soho venue is now open, offering courses and shows). They were all awesome.

Matthew Todd and Stuart Feather generously provided copies of their wonderful books – Straight Jacket and Blowing the Lid respectively – for impromptu prize-giving ceremonies as well as coming to see the show. I was chuffed that Neil Bartlett, Holly Johnson and Peter Tatchell made it along too and many awesome cabaret artists too.

Here are some pictures, many of them by the amazing Holly Revell.


Ms Hoyle in song (Photo by Holly Revell)


Ms Hoyle leads the class singing the school song. (Photo by Holly Revell)

Classroom assistant Simone Simone and Prefect Ben (Image Michael Shaw)

Classroom assistant Simone Simone and Prefect Ben (Image Michael Shaw)


Ms Hoyle gives a tour of her classroom gallery (Photo Holly Revell)


Simone Simone in the staff room (Photo by Holly Revell)


Visiting professor Christeene addresses the class (Photo by Holly Revell)


Ms Hoyle and visiting professor Marisa Carnesky (Photo by Holly Revell)


Backstage with visiting professor Penny Arcade


The blackboard


Each night Ms Hoyle immortalised an audience member in chalk.


Guest performer Jacob V Joyce.

Guest performer James Morgan

Guest performer James Morgan


Backstage with guest performers Tiffer Hutchings and Katy Jalili


Guest performers Queens of the Underworld (Photo by Holly Revell)


Guest performer The Matron (Elf Lyons) (Photo by Holly Revell)


Guest performer Joseph Morgan Schofield (Photo by Holly Revell)


Christeene, Simone Simone and Joseph Morgan Schofield in the staff room (Photo by Holly Revell)


Ms Hoyle with a bouquet (Photo by Holly Revell)


The class (Photo by Holly Revell)

The audience generated hundreds of ideas for how education could be improved. Here’s a few of them:

Ideas for improving education from the audience of The Prime of Ms David Hoyle.

Ideas for improving education from the audience of The Prime of Ms David Hoyle.

Ideas for improving education from the audience of The Prime of Ms David Hoyle.

Ideas for improving education from the audience of The Prime of Ms David Hoyle.

The whole thing was a more elaborately structured version of an event of the same name that ran in the foyer of the Chelsea for a couple of nights last November (see photos by Holly here and a review by Sasha Sélavie here), and we were supported by Arts Council England funding. We were also the very first show in the brand new And What? Queer Arts Festival, which runs until the end of the month.

Ms Hoyle, the Prefect and Simone Simone (Photo by Holly Revell)

Ms Hoyle, the Prefect and Simone Simone (Photo by Holly Revell)

It was a privilege to work with David in a format that aimed to offer something a bit different from his incomparable trademark nights at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (the latest run, Metadata, runs on Thursdays until October 27) or Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

There was no script – no two Hoyle shows are the same and it was a joy to see how the subjects were worked and reworked every night according to David’s moods and interests – but we did want to create a persona, a consistent cluster of subjects, a distinctive setting, and a particular kind of interpersonal dynamic involving those on stage and the audience too.

It was also a privilege to work with Thom, who did fabulous work on the set design and make-up as well as frequently stealing the show as Simone Simone.

A huge joy too to offer a platform to so many extraordinarily talented and daring young performers: Ari Rice, Azara Meghie, Claud Palazzo, Claudia Jefferies, Daniel Hall, Elf Lyons, Eve Fehilly, Jacob V Joyce, James Morgan, Jasmine Lee, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Katy Jalili, Mitchell Sowden, Queens of the Underworld, Rhys Hollis, Scarlett Lassoff, Tallulah Haddon, Tiffer Hutchings and Tom Cassani, who was extra-helpful to the production. All were sensational and taught us a lot.

And everyone at Chelsea Theatre was brilliant: Kathryn Stephens-Berry heading things up, Ryan Ormonde handling social media as well as some production duties, Tom Burgess on the tech side, Sara and Cat at front of house, and Francis Alexander (who’s no longer at Chelsea) who got the whole ball rolling.

Thanks to Anna Goodman‘s sterling work on the press front, we got a good bit of coverage, which I’m rounding up here.

We were previewed in a few places ahead of the run:

Attitude gave us a nice mention:


From Attitude (September 2016 issue)

In the Guardian, Lyn Gardner made us her top pick.
“Catch one thing this week and it should be The Prime of Ms David Hoyle…”
Read it here.

There was a lovely heads-up in QX magazine.
“Tuck in your shirt, spit out that gum and stick two fingers up to societal expectations, because David Hoyle’s putting on another evening of inimitable performance, which will challenge and captivate you in equal measures…”
Read it here.

David gave a classy interview to The Stage.
“It’s built around the ethos of Miss Jean Brodie… We’re playing with that and subverting that, turning it on its head. Obviously the character was a fascist, though. I couldn’t be more different…”
Read it here.

Get West London flagged the show up too.
“Step aside Miss Trunchbull, Dumbledore and Principal Skinner – there’s a new educator in town…”
Read it here.

I interviewed David for Run Riot, of which he was guest editor for a week.
“I do think of my shows as being instructional, rightly or wrongly. And I think it’s an opportunity to rant and vent. And hopefully it’s cathartic…”
Check it out here.

Theatre.London asked me to write about the show and highlight some other things in the And What? festival.
Utopian alternatives will be proposed, probably involving woodland glades…
Read it here.

I was also on Resonance FM’s Out in South London show with Stewart Who? talking about the show and much else besides.
Listen here.

And I wrote about the links between education and theatre for Exeunt.
“What if one tried to use the best aspects of the cabaret form to point towards a better vision of education?”
Read it here.

Plus a blog post for Not Television itself on David as an educator in his own right.
“The show is designed to put into action alternative ways of learning that don’t involve conformity, competition and philistinism…”
Read it here.

And then we were reviewed in a few places too. As a critic myself, I’m grateful for these thoughtful, nuanced and generous responses.

From QX magazine

From QX magazine

In QX, Dylan Jones said:
“My mind was blown by the effect David had on the audience as the evening progressed… It really was like rapt students in a lesson from their favourite teacher. The effect was wonderful, unique and surreal.”
Full review here.

On The F Word, Mary Paterson said:
“The show resonates with the spirit of an oppressive, cruel world beyond its borders, but brings kindness and warmth to the collective gathered together in the room… an evening of excess that finds clarity in complexity, and vice versa.”
Full review here.

In Total Theatre, Rebecca Nice said:
“Although the themes are heavy, the work is light and funny – both brightly coloured and brutal… Amidst many hilarious quips, some poignant moments emerge… Maybe learning to love one another is the first step towards change.”
Full review here.

On This is Cabaret, Candace Chan said:
“With confidence and fearless abandonment Ms David Hoyle treads the slippery ground between satire and pedagogy throughout the show… There are moments that feel imposing or mind-bending, but with her irresistible charm and vigour Ms Hoyle glides through unscathed.”
Full review here.

And on Flaming Norma, Alex Hopkins said:
“Hoyle’s awe inspiring spontaneity ultimately shows us that the real power of truth – of useful, compassionate knowledge – is only found when we set ourselves free and dare to tear up the rule book… Are we now seeing the prime of David Hoyle? I think so – but brace yourselves: this makes him more lethal than ever.”
Full review here.

All in all, a most educational experience. Thanks and love to all who were involved in whatever way.