Photo - Drew Geraci
New York’s Taylor Mac is no ordinary drag queen and his show The Bea(A)st of Taylor Mac is no ordinary drag show. In his own words it’s a highbrow dragshow – don’t expect to see a lip syncing glamorous queen and an easy night’s entertainment. This show will make you think, ponder and experience the musings of an entertainer that is both talented and tortured.
Appearing on stage looking like he’s wearing a giant lion’s mane or a sunflower gone wrong, he is simply amusing from the word go. He mentions the full moon and calls on everyone to get a little bit “cra-cra” – a term coined by youth meaning crazy. Then he sets his rules for the evening, calling on the “chatty catties” to behave themselves or find themselves on stage, dressed in drag.
His opening joke is about 9/11 and without really thinking, myself and other audience members find themselves guffawing and then suddenly swallowing their amusement as they realise that they’ve just joined in a on a joke about one of the most terrifying events in human history.
That’s the thing with this show, it’s confronting and as Mac says in his own words “if it wasn’t so ironic, it wouldn’t be funny.”
He performs the show within a “bubble of white light” then draws analogies to the way humans try to place themselves in a “bubble of protection” to “prepare for the surprises.” As he says, humans don’t like surprises, especially uncomfortable or tragic ones.
No topic is too taboo for Mac, in fact the more uncomfortable the better. He calls for audience participation and explains his desire to make the audience uncomfortable. He sees theatre as his way to preach to the “subversive” to get across his views (which are not those of the mainstream) and to make you question your own reality.
The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac is a montage of his jokes and songs from various shows over the last decade. His songs seem humorous accompanied by his ever changing ensemble of eclectic drag costumes and his ukulele. But listen closely and each one is dark and depressing. Perhaps used to my little “bubble of protection”, I kept waiting for the happy ending which eluded me.
Mac values diversity and detests “homogeneity” calling on his audience to escape the norm and challenging them to return next time dressed to thrill rather than dressed to conform. He shares personal stories of characters like drag queen Mother Flawless Sabrina who refuse to conform and have faced grim physical attacks or even been murdered as a result.
His popularity is undeniable. Despite the confronting topics, the audience loved Mac, stamping their feet and enthusiastically clapping at the end of his 90 minute performance. Perhaps people are just tired of being kept in a “bubble of protection” and they are now ready to hear the hard truths? One way or another, Mac will tell them in any case.
2011 Perth International Arts Festival
The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac
Written and performed by Taylor Mac
Directed by David Drake
Venue: Beck's Music Box
Date: Fri 18 Feb 2011
Tickets: $40.50 | Friends $37