Melbourne Recital Centre
14 February 2011
I spent my Valentine's night with Taylor Mac. We didn't snog or share sparkles, but it was still so much better than V days I've spent with other men.
The last time gorgeous Taylor was in town, he was at the Famous Speigeltent with The Be(a)st of TM, and it was love at first "play" for most of the audience. He's not the best singer, musician, writer or dresser, but his refusal to let any of that shit matter is what makes him so unforgettable and so loved.
This time, the coloured glass and swaying velvet of our favourite tent was replaced by the acoustically perfect grey box of the Melbourne Recital Centre. The venue was odd, but it took Taylor a breath to remove any residual stuffiness and ensure that every chamber musician that plays there will wonder why they always leave with a bit of glitter on them.
The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook or Comparison is Violence is Taylor's first real cabaret show and it's not too different from the personal "plays" he is known for, except there are more cover songs and a bit (only a bit) less personal material. As I feel compelled to compare, he also seems more confident as an artist. If his Be(a)st was asking if we liked him (we did), Comparison says "fuck you, I like me and that's what matters".
This cabaret is songs by David Bowie (as Ziggy) and Tiny Tim, because these were the artists that lazy (his word) journalists kept comparing him to. Ziggy because of the makeup, glitter and homosexuality and Tiny because of his ukelele. Neither is a fair, accurate or worthy comparison, but the result is finery that includes glittery tulip makeup and enough purplely-pink, colbolty-aqua and shiny-gold crochet to make my inner-six-year-old seethe and my 40-something self remember that black isn't always cool.
It also lets him blow our minds as "Starman" transitions to "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" and he reminds us that the subtext of any comparison is a criticism that we're not as special as we thing we are.
Taylor's authenticity is inspired by others but naturally incomparable. He shares stories of his favourite cabaret queens and how seeing John Cameron Mitchell's astonishing Hedwig and the Angry Inch (he was auditioned when Ali Sheedy took over as Hedwig) left him in tears as he recognised a world that was his and realised that shows, drag and life don't need to be a compromise.
There is no compromise this man's stage. He knows that life isn't all rainbow colour, but his black moments – like comparing AIDS to glitter – show that that even the vilest parts of life can be shine with some work. And much of his stage shines with his drag. Whereas drag is often a way to hide, he uses its extreme divineness to reveal himself and find those moments of comparison that unite an audience. He also defines drag as the personas we choose. It's rare that anyone sees our selves that appear when no one is watching, so why not make our drag as wonderful as we'd love ourselves to be.
Dammit Taylor Mac, I love you as much as I love David Bowie and John Cameron Mitchell and think of you every time I wear glittery eyeshadow.
This review appeared on AussieThearte.com
Photo by Ves Pitts
This a fabulous recent interview with him about the show.