Despite the niche and Nietzsche title, we are in for a big night of admiration.
Presented at MC Showroom, Leo Taylor’s Our Little Evening of Misery is a one-hour segment of poetry as social comment. A direct-to-audience spoken word performance covering a multitude of topics, Taylor’s eclectic yet refined writing approaches and styles turn cliché to relevance, taking themes we have heard a hundred times and remoulding them into unspoken, non-derivative sculptures. From rap to freeform to western classic to dramatic to social deconstruction, Taylor’s unique and iconic repertoire of original pieces brings us an unforgettable night of witty observations, anarchic counterpoints, and twisted humour, all while lounging on his throne like a mature logician swirling his pinot noir on a mild Sunday evening.
Directed solidly as a sit-down and speak performance, Taylor’s casual directorial choice takes the convention of speaking on a dais behind a scripture pedestal and makes it accessible to everyone. Bringing a sense of what it would be like in the house of Taylor to the stage, the audience immediately feels at ease with him and his story-telling. The improvisational element of the show only accentuated this comfortable, conversational quality, flowing on and rearranging the set list to fit the purpose of where his talk took him, channelling “I am here and in the moment”. With a narrative voice like no other heard on local soils, Taylor’s rich bass tones and crackle of intelligent energy and charisma pays off for his act’s seated entirety. Although rooted to his stool for nearly the entire segment, Taylor’s captivating tones and hypnotic dynamic prowess captures the auditorium in its resonant grip, giving Taylor the freedom to take his audience in any direction. His use of melodic contour saw his voice rise to mountain peaks and fall below sea level, carrying us all in his vessel tenderly as he exposed us to his oxymoronically bleak yet beautiful perspective on our world today; his almost counter-rhythmic speech drummed life behind his words and crispened each beat percussively, showing an authentic and empowered passion behind the social comments he was making.
Taylor did not come across as someone who liked the sound of his own voice, which is nigh impossible for an hour-long spiel written by a straight white male; Taylor truly sought to inspire and influence with his material and the messages within, maintaining a confident but respectful air while sharing a different piece for everyone in the room. What truly made him a formidable poet and performer was that he engaged the audience, he landed his jokes well and easy like that uncle at a Christmas party, and he apologised in advance to and invited discussions after the show with anyone who was offended by any of his material. This showed an admirable trait of humble humility in Taylor’s character.
The lighting designs in the show were particularly subtle, fading between solid washes; but where that can be a dangerous and plain design for many shows, the use of a colour to highlight the mood of the piece was incredibly effective, switching to green when discussing the nature and peace of world, blue in a piece of melancholy and nostalgia, red where death and destruction and hatred and rage fuel; the simple adjustments made all the justifiable difference and supported the performer, which is all that is needed for an effective lighting design.
In his own words, Taylor is not here to beat around the bush. “The reason I’m doing this show is to show off, to bitch about religion, to make people feel guilty, looking for relevance, getting people to like me as a challenge… Not sure if I want to do it, anyway…” And boy, does he achieve the list straight down! But the thing that makes this semi-Nihilistic production so incredibly astonishing is the utmost care, compassion and genuine configuration that Taylor lets on behind his words. Taylor is a role model for his generation right down to our great grand-children, and his work deserves to be published all over the world, starting by plastering the school corridors and library alcoves.