Saturday, November 20, 2010
Mackenzie Taylor, RIP
Last August at C Venues. among so much theatre and some comedy sketch groups, the only solo stand-up shows on offer were mine and Mackenzie Taylor's two shows. I didn't know him, but I got in touch before the festival and he came to see my first performance, answering my cry of help for the presence of two critics. I met him only briefly at the bar afterwards, thanked him for coming and mumbled something vaguely apologetic, to which he didn't reply, probably charitably so. The day after I went to see one of his shows: "No straitjacket required". It was the story of his battle with manic-depression and his attempted suicide and I found it compelling and moving. It was at moments very funny too, although it was wisely listed in the "Theatre" section of the program. I must admit, however, that it reminded me of what Ivor Dembina once told me about his own take on "not for comedy" subjects matters: you need to be careful of not being "too real". Probably the reason why the show wasn't listed as comedy is that it was indeed still "too real". Of course it might be the advantage of hindsight, but I got the impression that Mackenzie's wasn't too confident in the possibility of the irony and laughter to do that much for his pain, a lot of it was just laid bare on the stage, making sometimes for difficult viewing. This made it a truly unique type of show, in theatre proper in fact you know that every is fake, while here you had the sincerity of the best confessional comedy, but performed sometimes without the emotional safety net that comedy usually provides. Mackenzie was also running a second show called "Joy", with the intention I guess of offering a more upbeat take on things, unfortunately it clashed with mine so I couldn't see it. But I saw a short extract from it during the C Venues opening showcase: a funny and masterful comic magician's trick that did indeed show me a more playful side of Mackenzie. The idea of running two solo shows everyday for almost a month filled me with awe, unfortunately a week or so into the run I overheard some venue's staff discussing the scheduling for the rooms and saying something like "now that Mackenzie Taylor is dead". I asked them what they meant and they told me that they didn't mean it literally, but that he had some sort of breakdown and cancelled his run. And I didn't hear from or about him until yesterday, when on Facebook his sister announced from his account that he had "lost his battle with the demons in his mind". I cannot claim to have really known him, our paths crossed only briefly, but through his art he gave me and so many other people a truly deep glance into this battle. As cliché as it might sound, I'm very sad for him but also happy that he found peace at last.