Melbourne Festival: The Inauguration by Taylor Mac

Taylor Mac’s, The Inauguration, obliterates fear and the ordinary in a theatrical spectacle to open Melbourne Festival.

Emerging from side stage in a head dress (designed by Machine Dazzle) that is the size of a small car and puts Vegas showgirls to shame, he confidently sparkles and shimmers into centre stage. The multicoloured spectral chaos of Mac Taylor exudes absolute power and commands the best kind of attention.

The performance is a red hot, condensed version of his 24 Decade History of Popular music. Hailed as the modern Ring Cycle, he shrinks 240 years of popular American music, chews it up and spits it out as 24 hours, split into four shows. The Inauguration is a bite size chunk of the brilliance of that show.

Daring the audience to free themselves from bonds of shame and to strive to freedom, Taylor Mac is part ring master, part songstress. Flitting casually from belting out pop anthems to making the audience supremely uncomfortable (and stacking it on the stairs on one hilarious occasion) he demonstrates his presence and influence over a room is absolute. He effortlessly handled a rowdy crowd taking cheekiness in his stride and encouraging the self expression. Nothing is off limits. Not even lesbian anal fisting…

Inviting you to the mental sex party he is holding, Mac encourages you to point at your fellow audience members shamefully for their fetishes and sexuality. He hands out swastikas and sings love songs to faux Nazi’s. He forces young people to learn something from their elders, and better yet gets everyone dancing and grooving unabashedly. While the methods sound extreme and chaotic, the effect is a true safe space. Not where things are forbidden, but that you can do anything you like. No taboo words, no dancing too lame, no self expression too cringe-filled. It’s speaking in tongues and banishing demons for the 21st Century.

At the end of the show I found myself slow dancing pressed close against a tall, lean guy I had never met before, while feet away his girlfriend had her arms wrapped around a stranger shuffling from side to side. A disco ball lit the inside of Hamer Hall, and slow jams encouraged the weird reverent and awkward feel of a school gym for the grade 10 disco. This kind of experience while alien and a little painful, also is a ritual. Taylor Mac extolls the lack of ritual in our society. How comfortable everyone is and how we lack the experience that used to help us transition from children to adults. No more do we get forced out into the jungle, only allowed to return with a pelt of a panther over our shoulder. To fill this void the show is full of mini-rituals- slowly breaking away at the instinct we all have to ignore each other as best we can. Even if our fellow man needs help.

The end results of the show is a feeling of connectedness to all others, a bloating, all consuming desire to reach out and share ourselves. Taylor Mac acts as the bedazzled witch who conjures and manipulates song and feeling alike to give you an experience that is deeply singular. I have never been to a show like this before, and I can’t wait to try it again. The show is a must see for all.

5/5 Disco Balls


More information about upcoming Taylor Mac performances as part of Melbourne Festival can be found here.

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