Melbourne Festival 2017: THE WRAP WITH TAYLOR MAC

A glorious festival finale

By Bradley Storer

After finishing the rapturously received 24 Decades of Popular Music in America for this year’s Melbourne Festival, Taylor Mac returned to preside over the closing of the festival. From the very start, as Mac entered from the rear of the Forum Theatre and crowd-surfed over the people gathered at the front of the stage, an uninhibited party atmosphere prevailed. Mac (who uses the gender pronoun ‘judy’) was casually charismatic and commanding, describing the event as a collection of the queerest moments from the full 24 Decade show and with the aid of musical director Matt Ray and a small collection of musicians from the show judy certainly delivered!

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The hyper masculinity of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ was used as the back drop to a clandestine gay romance, the Supremes’ ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ (aided by the magnificent vocals of guest singers Steffanie Christi’an Mosley and Thornetta Davis) soundtracked the bus ride towards the Bayard Rustin march. Mac enlisted the audience to help re-enact the funeral procession of Judy Garland to the tune of ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ before the explosion of the Stonewall Riots in the Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’. The climax of the evening came in a spontaneous rendition of Prince’s make-out classic ‘Purple Rain’ where the division between audience and performers was broken down by what felt like sheer Dionysian joy, with tears and singing along in equal measure – as well as an incredible guitar solo from guitarist extraordinaire Viva DeConcini. The audience was then asked to dance with someone of the same gender (or for non-binary people, anyone of their choice) as Mac and Ray transformed a homophobic Ted Nugent song into a gorgeous slow dance at a gay junior prom, a beautiful and poignant ending to the high-octane evening.

The best was saved for last, with a song not from Mac’s 24 Decade show, as judy encored with a camptastic cover of Olivia Newton John’s ‘Xanadu’ as a tribute to the Australian audience, complete with mirror ball and costume designer Machine Dazzle back up dancing dressed as a disco butterfly. The crowd roared and begged for more, and the feeling of sad acceptance as Mac exited the stage was palpable: the sensation of waking from a wonderful dream and having to return to the real world.

A delicious and satisfying ending to a triumphant season at the Melbourne Festival, and we can only wait in anticipation for what the festival will bring next year!

Date: 22nd October, 2017

Time: 7pm

Venue: Forum Theatre, Flinders St & Russel St, Melbourne VIC 3000

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