Who is Moira Finucane?
Gothic glamazon. Unrealist. Burlesque Queen and Art vs Extinction Cultural Provocateur. Also lover and hustler of Marmalade for Hope. Trained in environmental science, with a background in environmental law, gender-in-development and world heritage conservation; Moira Finucane’s love of literature began with fairy tales and her love of performance with underground clubs. She is now an internationally acclaimed director, performer, writer and creator of polymathic worlds and “Salons of Humanity”.
Finucane’s works span drama, beyond-genre cabaret, installation, provocative variety and surreal indoor carnivals. She is a game-changer and creates for her audience indelible visions of humanity, freedom, power and desire. Her works have been presented in 18 countries, winning 13 awards from Cuba’s CHAMACO Award for Best International Presentation to Miami’s Climakaze Award for outstanding artwork in climate justice. She is the co-Artistic Director of the legendary house of Finucane & Smith Unlimited. In 2019 she created works in Antarctica, China and remote Australia.
What would you do differently from what you do now?
I have many forks in my road but I don’t regret the decisions I have made to do exactly what I do now. I have created cross cultural events in many countries and with many cultures, lifting, sharing, exchanging with powerful lesser heard voices across the world. In Latin America, Eastern Europe, in China, in remote and regional Australia. I have worked with people across languages; directed Mandarin language drama on the damage trail of family violence in Beijing and Shanghai; collaborated with an acrobatic troupe of the Tibetan Plateau who’d never collaborated with a foreigner before; have made and shared with remote First Nations leaders in the middle of this stunner of a country; exchanging across spirit, country and justice. I’ve performed in a crumbling palace in Chile, with the sound of distant glaciers in Antarctica, in a silent movie theatre in Berlin. No downside.
I have worked with women’s grassroots organisations in many countries on violence against women and girls, and trained and worked as an environmental scientist, focusing on law and world heritage conservation. I’ve worked as a waitress from coffee shops to silver service; as a burlesque star; a director; a writer; a bearded lady in a murder mystery and sold Ugg boots in 80s Perth; I’ve worked in places ranging from Cuba to the Potato Shed in Drysdale to the Sydney Opera House. Everything I have done is part of who I am right now, and whilst there is a LOT about the world I would like to change, I pretty much treasure the place and the people I have found in it.
Who inspires you and why?
It’s hard to choose from many, many inspirations – from my family to Desmond Tutu to Madonna. But one person who has inspired me greatly over the years is Australian cabaret, musical, and TV legend Toni Lamond. I read her book many years ago, Still a Gypsy, and it was a cracker. She pursued her dreams, she faced so much hardship and she just kept on trooping. I saw her do a show in Melbourne – I was super broke at the time and contacted her and asked for a free ticket as I was such a fan.
She didn’t know me from a bar of soap. She actually called me back, arranged front row seats for me and my partner – put on the drinks on her tab (we’d asked for water), came and gave us words of courage – it was an unforgettable night! A few years down the track, I was able to repay the favour and engaged her as our guest star in my show The Burlesque Hour at Sydney Opera House. I told her the story of what she’d done for me on national radio and we both cried. The Sydney Morning Herald called her the “ultimate showgirl” – she was a HUGE HIT. It was the ultimate payback and an honour and thrill for me.
What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Annihilate patriarchy. Seek justice every day. Be kinder than I feel. Never give up. Never give in. Hold Hope.
Favourite holiday destination and why?
For a real actual holiday it has to be the beach and bush walking.
When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
One of my favourite places in Melbourne is the Chinese museum – and it is home to one of the world’s largest processional dragons – the Millennium Dragon – and its predecessor Dai Loong. I am in love with Dai Loong, and I often pay my respects. I have some of his scales, I never go anywhere without one, for luck. I too am a dragon, and we have to stick together. I love to take people to visit the dragon as it is very special and very magical and very big!
Then a decadent afternoon tea at Sofitel on Collins; a movie at Kino, and glass of red and a very big steak at Mario’s in Fitzroy to finish the day! And if we are shopping? Well, Scally & Trombone for hats and bling, Preston Zly for uber shoes, Gun Shy for faux fur fabulousness, Angela Clarke for custom jewels and bullet beads. Why? Because when you are in Melbourne you literally want to be dripping in red hot Made-in-Melbourne style.
What are you currently reading?
I’m working my way through an ancient Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Last Case. Stops me from doom scrolling. I never go anywhere without Desmond Tutu’s No Future Without Forgiveness.
What are you currently listening to?
Classical Nap Time for Tots. Fado. The Greatest Oriental Classics by David Wei.
All of the above!
What does the future hold for you?
Like pretty much all of us my work has been radically rearranged in the past 18 months, so the future is not a simple pathway. Then again, it never has been! In the short term, we have our fabulous winter season on the doorstep: live Zoom of my show The Rapture: Bathtub Edition – indeed beamed live and visceral directly from my bathtub to your lounge room! Then I’m directing a live showing of a new work by Jackie Smith – The Destroyer with Maude Davey as the Destructive Bitch Goddess of Chaos – typecast again! And we are live streaming Glory Box to World Pride to headline the Queer Theater Festival of Copenhagen at 5.00am – so there is a lot going on.
Long term, like Toni Lamond, I will keep on trooping on! I have stories to tell and voices to uplift and celebrate, and I will continue to find ways of reaching people. Many influences have made me the artist and activist I am today. My upbringing in the Irish Catholic church, my life as a woman, and as a queer woman, as well as my passion for fairy tales, for stories of redemption and hope, and my own rescued spirituality amidst the catastrophic betrayals of trust, have shaped my understanding of oppression, exclusion and my commitment to joy and justice.
Embedded in this too, is my commitment to radical hospitality, to welcoming all kinds of people to see my work, of opening up rather than closing down powerful art on humanity, oppression, freedom, desire and hope that reach through the ribcage of diverse audiences, dissolving social and political barriers and speaking directly to the heart, soul and curiosity of people. My experience is that you take care of people and take them anywhere, and nothing I have seen to date has shaken that belief.
So in a nutshell Total Art. Total Love. Total Freedom… And a day off!
Moira is emerging from the ashes of a pandemic year gone by and rising into the flames of a winter season of theatrical and performance wildness. The Rapture: Bathtub Edition (29 July & 5 August); and The Destroyer (24 – 26 August). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: www.trybooking.com for details.
Finucane & Smith’s most globally awarded provocative variety show Glory Box will mark its first live digital season for World Pride, beaming live across the world at 5.00am AEST for the Copenhagen Queer Theater Festival in a dance-party takeover for three shows on 19 & 20 August 2021.
Image: Moira Finucane – photo by Jodie Hutchinson and Vanessa Fernandez