18 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Taylor Mac, Chapter II & the G word

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter II: 1836–1886

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
13 October 2017
Forum Theatre

Taylor Mac. Hour 7. Photo by Sarah Walker

Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music Chapter II  included re-enacting the American Civil War, taking the racism out of The Mikado by setting it on Mars, moving all the chairs in the Forum, singing with helium and making even more new best friends. And ping-pong balls; has anyone talked about the ping-pong balls that Melbourne is loving in our own freaky way?

Taylor Mac. Hour 8. Photo by Sarah Walker

Sarah Walker's photos can tell story of Chapter II. She captures the why we're so in love with this show. Look at those smiles!

Hour 11. The balloons were worth catching

But back to Chapter 1. Something happened off stage, while Taylor was flying in a harness: the announcement of the McArthur Foundation Grants, which are incorrectly known as the 'genius' grants. Taylor got one. (As did with playwright Annie Baker, who wrote John that was at the MTC earlier this year.)

Taylor Mac. Hour 9. Photo by Sarah Walker

I first saw Taylor in 2008 in The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac. He had a ukelele, a suitcase full of op-shop drag and a lot of sequins and glitter. He performed to an intimate group at the Famous Spiegeltent next to Arts Centre Melbourne before going to the Feast festival in Adelaide. (Feast was directed by Dan Clarke, who is now working at Arts Centre Melbourne.)

Taylor Mac & Machine Dazzle. Hour 12. Photo by Sarah Walker

I've been a fan ever since, and may have squealed when I found out that the 24-hour show was coming to Melbourne. Judy (Taylor's preferred pronoun; it really is easy to understand) shared work that started from the personal, ignored aesthetic and acceptable ideas of how to story, and connected with people who may never have thought they would connect with the radical idea of being your authentic self and seeing the world through a different gaze.

Many artists affirm how I see myself and my community. That night with Taylor changed how I saw myself in my community.

I left knowing that drag was could be exciting, embracing and subversive in ways that said 'fuck off' to all ridiculous assumptions of masculinity or femininity. And that it didn't have to insult women.

Taylor Mac, Dandy Minions (including Mama Also in the green wig) & audience (including Richard Watts, Tom Halls & Simone French). Hour 10

And I stopped resisting the Q word. My first memories of "queer" was it being re-appropriated as an insult. Re-re-appropriating queer as positive and inclusive has been bloody marvelous.

Mama Alto – one of Melbourne's Dandy Minions: the magnificent locals helping to make the 24-hour show – explains queer and queering rather wonderfully in this piece in The Music. (Or read it in this issue, which includes some very groovy writers.)

The Civil War. Photo by Sarah Walker

Taylor's next trip to Melbourne was The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook or Comparison is Violence. I left knowing that glitter belongs on every face that wants it and my reviews began looking for more positive than negative.

I'm not surprised that the G word is being thrown around.

But the word also dismisses the work it takes to create works of genius.

Jackie Smith & Moira Finucaine. Photo by Sarah Walker

Maybe being open to those ideas that are usually rejected, finding the people who you want to create with – let's not forget that a team of glorious people are part of the 24-hour show –, and ignoring the NO voices* is always an amazing place to start.

Dan Giovannoni as Yum Yum in The Mikado. Photo by Sarah Walker

* including critics; good writers are not always right.


Taylor Mac In Conversation on Saturday at 2.30.

The Wrap: closing night party on Sunday.

Circus Oz Strong Women. Photo by Sarah Walker

Chanon Judson. Photo by Sarah Walker

Musical Director Matt Ray, who is also on stage for 24 hours. Photo by Sarah Walker

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