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Offbeat but on form, Taylor Mac is a delightful raconteur

By Grania McFadden

Published 26/10/2016

Unconventional: Taylor Mac
Unconventional: Taylor Mac

Taylor Mac arrived on stage at The Mac last night like a peacock strutting in among a flock of sparrows. Dressed in a silk frock with feather hat and muff, and a gas mask fascinator, he strides on like a music hall act — until he starts to speak.

Throughout an evening of song, laughter, anecdote and education, Mac takes the audience on a journey through time, exploring the music and culture that was in the air fro 1906-1926.

His first number — backed by his terrific onstage band — is Amazing Grace, and it’s clear he means business.

Mac’s determination to engage and involve the audience sees us singing pro- and anti-war songs; free form jazz dancing, batting balloons across the auditorium and — in between all the laughter — listening. This is not a concert event, we hear, it’s a “radical faerie realness ritual”. And some of us will be sacrificed in its making. The moving arrangement of great songs make that sacrifice easy, and no one objects to being volunteered throughout the evening.

Costume designer Machine Dazzle appears alongside Mac, to shine a little light on By The Light of the Silvery Moon, while Keep The Home Fires Burning is dedicated to imaginary lesbian couple Gladys and Ethel.

Mac talks about patriotism, war, and gender. He explains his thoughts on culture and how we should apply what we hear to our lives. Or not. “It’s not a universal show.”

He combines cabaret, comedy and burlesque with his singing, only occasionally seeming a little bemused by the Belfast audience’s reaction (or lack of it).

But everyone gets it when he invites two men to be gay couple Bert and Ernie (and presents them with a cake) for his story about acceptance. Mac switches from humour to poignancy with a bat of his eyelashes — there’s serious stuff alongside the laughter, and he combines the two with the greatest of ease. It’s when he reads Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from Ulysses, that Taylor Mac really makes sense. Like Molly, he’s all about the yes.

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