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Jason Reid Cabaret Interview: Michael Twaits

I’ve long been an advocate for cabaret competitions that foster new and emerging talent with heart not scorn. The best is Pride’s Got Talent which is an annual affair hosted and organised by one of my favourite people on the scene Michael Twaits who I spoke to
ahead of the launch of this year’s heat stages…

What’s the purpose of Pride’s Got Talent, and how does the competition play out?

Pride’s Got Talent is a platform for new and up-and-coming acts from the world of music
and cabaret. Having both a music and cabaret category means we see people from all areas of the community doing all sorts of amazing things: pop bands, singer-songwriters, fire-eaters, drag acts, and so much more.

This year we’re coming to The RVT, Two Brewers, Ku Bar, Zodiac, Freedom Soho, The Glory
and Phoenix Arts Club before our glitzy climax in the West End! The final is in the week of Pride In London, and our winners will get a slot on 1st July supporting our headline acts at Trafalgar Square.

Any early goss about this year’s final?

This year we’re going to be at the Adelphi Theatre — which will be epic! The joy of the contest is that all the finalists feel like winners because it’s such a spectacular night in the West End. The whole night feels like a celebration — and the fact that a winner walks aways with £1000 to further their career is the cherry on top. There’ll be a very special guest performance from our PGT cabaret winner 2022, Alexa Vox!

In the wake of the death of trans teenager Brianna Ghey, and with anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric skyrocketing both online and in real life, what would you say to LGBTQ+ people who are understandably frightened right now, and how should we be countering the rising hate?

I wish there was a short answer that could encapsulate the grief and anger that I and so many feel over the current state of things. But there isn’t. It’s a scary time for trans and LGBTQ+ people; there seems to be an amplification of voices that want to remove letters from acronyms, social media platforms peddling hate and misinformation under the guise of freedom of speech, and I think the real world results of the ‘debate’ are becoming more and more evident and it’s terrifying.

There’s a very short-term memory from some people about how far LGBTQ+ rights have moved forward over the past few decades. In many ways, it makes Pride events more important than ever. There must always be a celebration of identity but there must always be a protest. There has to be a strong message of standing shoulder to shoulder with all members of the trans and Q+ community. We obviously need to show our solidarity, remind everyone we are one community, and remind ourselves how much has been achieved- but that won’t stop or regress. We need to find more ways to platform and amplify trans voices. In our personal lives, we need to be better friends and family members than we have ever been, checking in on our trans friends.

On July 1st (Pride In London) there needs to be a resounding cry from the streets of London and from all the stages across the city that we will not be dragged backwards. We’re here, we’re queer and we’re fucking angry.

Who’s your LGBTQ+ cabaret icon of 2023 so far?

Jordan Gray. She is an absolute star who has smashed through into the mainstream comedy world. She’s taking up space and being unapologetically herself – and hilarious. An inspiration!

Pride’s Got Talent begins on Monday 27th March.
More info: prideinlondon.org/pgt

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