New York performance artist Taylor Mac brings their magnum opus to Melbourne: a glittering, extravagant journey through 24 decades of pop music
As far as large-scale international festival shows go, it doesn't get much bigger than this. Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music is a decade-by-decade crash course in American culture, from 1776 to today, told (and this is the truly outrageous part) across 24 hours. In a major coup for the Melbourne Festival, Mac will perform this marathon music theatre work in October in its third-ever appearance after New York (where it premiered in 2016 to rave reviews) and San Francisco.
So what can audiences expect, exactly? A 24-Decade History of Popular Music is as far from a straight-down-the-line history lesson as you can get. The New York performance artist approaches American history from a queer and radical lens, bringing marginalised voices to the fore and focusing on the communities torn apart by dominant forces, whether they're queer, female, Jewish or people of colour. In Mac's words, the overall impact of the piece is to show how "in America the oppressor is forgiven but the outsider is vilified". This year, 24-Decade was awarded the Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History (the 2016 winner was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton).
At once searingly political and hugely entertaining, 24-Decade is performed by Mac, along with 23 US musicians, and an ensemble of dancers, acrobats, puppets, choirs and marching band. After each decade, one of the 23 performers leaves the stage, until only Mac remains for the final decade, ending in the present day.
In its Melbourne iteration, 24-Decade will be performed in four six-hour blocks, over two consecutive Wednesday and Friday nights during the Melbourne Festival. If you don't have the dollars for the full 24-hours, then individual performance tickets may be released closer to the date; or, you can buy tickets to Mac's two other festival performances. The Inauguration (Thu Oct 5) is a two-hour version of the show, and The Wrap (Sun Oct 22) is the Melbourne Festival's closing party, featuring Mac playing alongside local and international guests.
Check out Time Out Melbourne's hit list of Melbourne Festival 2017 highlights.
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154 Flinders St