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No Straightjacket Required
Published on Friday, 21 May 2010

At the beginning of his show, Mackenzie Taylor asks the audience if we all know what it's about – and when we nod he double-checks, 'You all know it's about my mental illness and suicide attempt?' We nod again, he laughs, and he explains that he wanted to check nobody thought it was a Phil Collins retrospective.

It's not that, of course, but it's something quite extraordinary. It's very clear that it's a true story and it's often very, very funny. He bemoans the side-effects of his medication – 'why are side-effects always bad? How come you never get medication that has good side-effects?' Yet it's thought-provoking too.

One of my favourite parts (although it seems odd to say this) was when he described the day of his suicide, driving down to Brighton and trying to find somewhere to park. He tried for 45 minutes before realising he might as well dump his car illegally. This show made me think a lot about how different the world would be if tomorrow was effectively cancelled, and your actions had no consequences – and it was even more interesting to hear how hard it is to really shake off the idea that they do.

Most Fringe shows are an hour long and that can feel like an age, but here, especially after Taylor's patter and some breaks for audience interaction, it felt rushed. The story is a complicated one and some details felt missed. Taylor tells us how important his girlfriend Katy is at the top of the show, but she barely features in the story. His suicide attempt is instigated by a relationship with another woman, Naomi; she’s a more vividly-drawn character, but I never quite felt the strength of Taylor's passion for her and how it drove him to utter despair. At points the pace of the show felt a bit like Taylor was telling me what happened in a novel he'd read – 'oh, he meets this woman and they have this amazing connection but then she leaves him,’ etc., etc., etc.

But Taylor's description of his suicide bid and its aftermath is both devastating and dramatic. It is odd that the centrepiece of a stand-up comedy act isn’t played for laughs at all, but this is the most breathtaking part of the show, and I was in the edge of my seat – even though, as Taylor acknowledged at the start, we already knew the ending.

This show is very funny when it's meant to be funny, but it’s when he stopped being funny that it really came alive. I've seen a few acts in this festival that I felt were a bit hamstrung by being billed as stand-up, and I did wonder if Taylor's show would have been better placed as a dramatic monologue, or a one-man play.

It's an odd criticism, because really I think I just wanted more; I wanted to feel closer to these characters, and for the story to be allowed to develop without always needing to find the funny. But it's still an amazing show: brave, full of insight and genuine warmth and kindness. It's also an important show about an important subject – and Mackenzie Taylor is a truly admirable man. He was handed lemons, and he’s made the tallest, most sparkly glass of lemonade I can imagine.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.