Taylor Mac’s one-man show has hit up countless countries and endless more theatres. Named one of New York’s best performers in both 2007 and 2008 by The Village Voice and Time Out, this gender-bending surrealist evening of politically loaded humour manages to surpass any expectations that precede it.
What do I mean by that? This means what do we expect as an audience when we go to a drag show, when we hear the words political theatre, when we think performance art? Directed by award-winning solo performer himself, David Drake, Taylor Mac succeeds in building a progressive deconstruction of every preconception we may have in going to the theatre.
The artist calls this composite of past shows a selection of his ‘best-of’. Mac starts off the show with a set about New York’s reaction to 9/11, and takes us all the way to Inauguration Day 2009. All in the name of addressing our ‘collective and collected conscience of conformity and fear’, in examining our collective need to prepare for surprises rather than to embrace the unpredictable.
In doing so this 90 minute piece looks at our fears as an audience, of the performance structure, and of assigned rules of behaviour in general. Beyond playing with stereotypes of gender, class and the American culture of fear, Taylor Mac leads us into the piece through political headlines in order to encounter the humanity of all players involved. One queen, a ukulele, a spotlight, and the requisite suitcase of eccentric costumes later, and we encounter the correlations between gay rights and birthing, Lynne Cheney and Saddam Hussein, the faults and promises of past loves, and the playwright’s struggle to accept himself as much as he celebrates the diversity of his audiences.
This piece isn’t just meant to make us laugh, but to better understand why we laugh. Much like the various well-traveled and dusty costumes fall to pieces from Taylor’s body, so do the layers of satirical humour to reveal the heart of his work. This show doesn’t just play with labels. It smartly and warmly has us confront our fears of others, and in doing so, our fears of ourselves.
So I remind you, if and when you can, to go to this wonderful performance piece/play/cabaret of political satire, heart and soul. It is a reminder of what performance is all about, and one of the best nights out this year. The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac – coming to a basement, bar, or theatre near you.