30 November 2020
From the Manchester HOME stage last week, David Hoyle – in trademark face paint – delivered a 75-minute condemnation of capitalism, regularly stressing that we can’t return to ‘normal’ post-COVID. “‘Normal’ is millions of people finding life rather difficult,” he points out. He is joined by NHS worker ‘Debs’, to sell various items including a hand peeled potato, a jam jar of dust, and a copy of Will Young’s To be a Gay Man (as signed by Hoyle).
The performance artist’s looks are always striking, but it’s Debs’ costume that resonates most here. Donning a face shield, gloves and gown, she encourages bidding; an NHS worker asking for money, as she tops up Hoyle’s glass of Prosecco and parades the auction pieces on a rotating plate. The message seems clear: our NHS workers need a pay rise, for what they do for others.
Further comments arrive in the form of videos, which break up the onstage action, adding variety. In one of them, Hoyle portrays a wealthy, middle-class figure, endorsing outdoor pizza ovens as if they’re a realistic purchase for all levels of society.
Elsewhere in the Mark Whitelaw-directed show, denunciations are even more obvious. “I want to go to the south of France and sink the yachts of the rich,” he says at one point. Later, he and Debs repeatedly state: “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if nobody’s doing it.”
Even Downton Abbey isn’t safe (owing to its romanticisation of poverty) in this correctly chaotic and controlled piece of political cabaret; Hoyle’s interactions with the producer, Jayne Compton (“have we got more video content, Jayne?”) giving it a fitting rough-and-ready feel. Simply structured, frequently funny, right is right – and A Grand Auction of My Life is doing it.