This colliding of cultures, the classical and the modern, LGBT and mainstream would be apparent throughout the afternoon, but never more so than for Hoyle’s entrance. Looking splendid in punk drag – huge Siousxie-style black eyes and lips, silver sequinned mini skirt, stilettos, and more costume jewellery than a well-rifled through Topshop sale rack, the paradox between his brash appearance and gentle, thoughtful manner was clear. Perhaps it could be argued that nothing we were going to experience was really what it seemed.
As a relative newcomer to the work of David Hoyle – having last seen him in The Ugly Spirit as part of DaDaFest – with him it can be unclear where the performance begins and ends. But as he led us around he was quite open and honest about the thoughts going through his mind – starting with his feelings on working on Remembrance Day. He enjoyed giving people things to think about, offering his opinions up and “leaving them with you”, as we wandered from room to room.
In the sculpture gallery, we talked of war and death, mortality and loneliness. An afternoon of nob gags in front of the Hockneys, this was not to be. We were going to be forced to confront a whole lot more.
Hoyle led us up to the first floor of the Walker and to a space behind the current Biennial installation by Enrico David. There, transgender artist Rhyannon Styles built up a musical loop on electric guitar as a projection covered the wall, before abandoning the instrument and beginning to somersault, over and over again, in an hypnotic and captivating performance piece.
Then, we headed into the medieval and renaissance art wing, where in a small room we were treated to a rousing recital from poet Gerry Potter. His powerful piece The Effeminate was a joy to see performed, groaning with evocative wordplay, pathos and laughs, drama and melodrama. An ex-pat, maybe, but an incredible Liverpool talent.
There was already something special happening in the Walker, but when we stumbled across dancer Darren Pritchard huddled in the corner of a large room of religious art, Archetype became truly extraordinary. Watching him performing a solo piece of contemporary dance to Gary Jules’s version of Mad World was not just unexpectedly moving – it was actually hard not to weep. As part of the Homotopia programme, Pritchard had also performed a work called 1, in which he danced for one audience member at a time for the duration of one song. And despite the larger crowd in this instance, it was easy to imagine what that experience might have been like; in a bright, open space like that, there was nowhere to hide from the powerful emotions his dancing evoked. He has an incredible gift for connecting with an audience, cutting a lone figure against the lavish red flock wallpaper of the gallery, waiting for us to find him before coming to life.
We stayed with Pritchard for a while after, and he answered questions about his life and his journey to find himself as a young, mixed race, working class gay man. Those three short minutes watching him dance in the Walker was easily one of the most wonderful things I have seen all year.
We had one last person to meet on our journey: Julie ‘Psycho’ Jones, the comic creation of Elizabeth Hotson. Dewsbury’s answer to Vicky Pollard with a taste for arson and Primarni, the psycho scally is not the most original of character ideas, but Hotson was a very likeable and unflappable performer. She had a great relationship with Hoyle, too, who was moved to belt out his best karaoke for her in the middle of the gallery.
And so we ended our magical mystery tour on a song – You Made Me Love You, as it happened – and as 5pm rolled around, we were very politely booted out into the dark. Everything seemed a little different since I’d wandered in two hours earlier expecting an afternoon of mucking about.
Archetype is a brilliant, totally unique event, and to Homotopia’s complete credit is absolutely free. A little jewel in their programme, it was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited in for a peek.