Self-styled globe-galloping Queen Provocateur, Empress of Intimate Spectacle, Mistress of the Macabre, Moira Finucane, has transformed the stage of the Playhouse into a 1930’s Parisian salon replete with intimate cabaret tables, each with a tiny candle flickering on pretty cloths.
Her trademark red and gold lanterns glimmer above a stage draped with red velvet, with a catwalk thrusting out into the centre of the room, on which she and her troupe of glamazons, including one male, strut their stuff. Not for Finucane the usual strip-tease fare. Though there’s plenty of nudity, she and her extraordinary performers use strip-tease as a starting point to present cleverly conceived acts which subvert, question and challenge the usual boundaries of good taste and convention.
Finucane, herself a mesmerizing figure threading the show together with multiple costume changes to perform some her classic routines. Her response to a meat pie is indescribable. She’s unrecognizable as a town yokel who “loves himself” and hilarious, strutting the stage in Vivienne Westwood shoes and glamorous gowns, often transparent, expounding witty “true stories” spontaneously conceived on words suggested by the audience. Between her own items, she busies herself clearing discarded items of clothing, or supporting other acts, particularly butoh artist, Yumi Umiumare.
Umiumare’s acts are particularly mesmerizing and unsettling. Her first involves a Japanese tea drinking ceremony, impeccably performed, costumed in traditional Japanese robes. She holds the audience spellbound as she suddenly discards the layers of costume to, seemingly, plunge into disturbing madness. Her other items are equally complex and disturbing.
World Queen of Burlesque, Imogen Kelly, performs in a series of stunning costumes. Her pink ostrich feather fantasy, portraying two flirting ostriches, is an engineering marvel as she dismantles it, piece by piece. Later in the show, gorgeously costumed as Marie Antoinette, she leaves no doubt as to what Marie had in mind with her famous comment Let Them Eat Cake.
There were gasps as diminutive Rockie Stone performed some seriously dangerous aerials, dangling by her toes from a rope high above the stage, and balancing precariously on stacked chairs. Sultry songstress, Willow Sizer, raised eyebrows with her unique technique for storing red wine corks, and the only male among the glamazons, choreographer and dancer Paul Cordeiro whipped up the atmosphere, and the audience, with a series of energetic dance routines for which he was joined by the entire cast and a few brave audience members.
The surprise of the night was the appearance of local burlesque performer, Virginia Fields, who performed reverse strip, commencing her act totally nude and enticingly adding costume piece by piece. Keen to support local burlesque performers, Moira Finucane has announced her intention to include some of the best local acts into the 9.30pm performances of Dance Hall during its Canberra season. Who knows, you may even spot an emerging new Queen of Burlesque.
Finucane and Smith’s Dance Hall
The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 7 February 2019 – 9.30pm
Season: 7 – 9 February 2019
Image: Moira Finucane and Yumi Umiumare – photo by Greer Veersteeg
Review: Bill Stephens OAM