Photo – Little Fang
How do you build up a world that is tearing itself apart?
And how does one performer (albeit flamboyant in amazingly, artistically constructed drag) hold hundreds of people in the palm of their hand for six hours straight? Especially singing American popular music to an audience of Australians?
It might sound cliched to say this award-winning New York performance artist creates a sense of epic communion, but you’d be hard pushed to find someone in the world who does it better. There is no apathy or ignorance or sitting with your arms crossed in the dandy church of Taylor Mac.
Originally created as a day-long durational performance piece, A 24 hour Decade History of Popular Music spans 1776-2016, with one hour dedicated to each decade and a corresponding costume designed by the kooky Machine Dazzle to match. It comes to Melbourne Festival in four segments, which still is no mean feat or small commitment. In the "radical faerie realness ritual" Mac is aided by a local contingent of “dandy minions” – drag kings and drag queens who act as the flight’s air hosts and hostesses, handing out beers for the decade of drinking songs or sparkly accessories to “dandify” the audience.
Backed by a brilliant orchestra and a phalanx of knitters – making things is a better ode to patriotism than mindless consumerism, Mac says – Taylor Mac deconstructs history, pop music and the inequities our messed up society is founded upon. It might be focused through an American lens, but the issues are rampant in all modern society – racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, violence, our blatant disregard for indigenous culture. Six hours fly by faster than a flight to Sydney with a brilliant mix of intensity and frivolity which is never contrived or pretentious, but always heartfelt and human, and interwoven with snippets of Mac’s own personal story.
The hundreds of people that fill the Forum sing, dance, laugh, cry, share their own personal stories, and at one stage we all sit blindfolded for an entire hour. As we adjust to being one sense down, our others are tested. We are given roses and directed to get someone nearby to smell it, and grapes to feed someone with. In a raucous game of musical chairs there’s a riot of giggling and fumbling as we embrace the chaos and disorientation of ending up who the hell knows where.
Taylor Mac is up front in stating the show offers no answers about how to rebuild a world which is built on cracked foundations and crying out for help, but it’s a level of heightened consciousness in the room which raises a collective spirit to whoop and stomp our way to the trip’s finale.
2017 Melbourne Festival
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
by Taylor Mac
Director Taylor Mac and Niegel Smith
Venue: Forum Melbourne | cnr Flinders St & Russell Streets, Melbourne
Dates: 11-10-2017 – 20-10-2017
Tickets: $199 – $699