Taylor Mac’s presence will leave you revelling in an experience so far beyond comprehension and beauty that it will stop you dead in your tracks. If what this performer effortlessly embodies could be passed on as a gift, perhaps our world would slow down just enough to avoid that cataclysmic thing we all know is waiting around the corner.
Mac opens the performance with Tori Amos’ Precious Things, one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs released in the early 90s, it’s a subversive choice. Amos’ lyrics were at the time controversial in their exploration of sexuality and abuse — upon reflection in present times, these lyrics barely register, our society too much awash of stories of violence and sexual exploitation.
Mac tears down walls and bridges divides. In this space, boundaries of age, race and gender are transgressed. The power of the statement Mac makes is frighteningly beautiful, albeit tinged by the sickening reality of the world that exists outside of the safe space that theatre has become for so many of us. This notion is best communicated through Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam, a scene where Mac seems to channel the late performer. Mac contemporizes the song while remaining respectfully aware of the violent inception and influence that drove Simone to write it, making for a rallying call to action for all minorities and individuals that are currently under siege.
Central to this performance is a concept of togetherness and a universal need for kindness towards ourselves and those around. It is not long before the audience is so joyously pulled into the fray, singing, laughing and, by the end, warmly embracing with the strangers sitting next to them. Mac’s handle of the English language and rhythm means that every word in this show leaves an indelible memory. His words are ones oft used in conversation, although delivered with such dignity and command, lyrical and bursting with visual metaphor.
Mac finishes with a final defiant fuck you by taking ownership of Snake Skin Cowboy penned by Ted Nugent, a man who proudly boasted about his love of the sport more widely known as “poofter bashing”. For any survivor of such experience, the final moments of this performance reopen deep wounds but simultaneously bring a sense of closure — within the space Mac creates, it is impossible to feel alone.
Mac is the perfect embodiment of everything this world needs to embrace in order to save itself from its own self destruction. This is more than art, more than performance — this is a desperate call to action, and a stupendously beautiful moment of pause. If only the world outside could disappear and we here in this moment could live on forever.