Exotic dancer, Lola Montez, is one of Australia’s more intriguing historical characters. Her main claim to fame is that she reportedly scandalised the Ballarat miners with her erotic Spider dance, and horse-whipped an unfortunate theatre critic who gave her a bad review.
Not wanting to risk a similar fate, I’m pleased to report that Jackie Smith has cleverly embellished this information with her own imaginings to fashion an entertainingly subversive and intriguing script, for which director, Moira Finucane has devised gloriously theatrical production, utilising elements of burlesque razzle dazzle to sugar-coat messages of body-image, celebrity, and girl-power.
Red fringed curtains, red lanterns and red roses decorate the stage. A large wooden cabin trunk, which doubles as an altar, a bed, or a podium, is positioned centre-stage, together with an elegant chair draped with a Spanish shawl.
Caroline Lee utilises all these items in her spell-binding performance as Lola Montez. Drawing on her considerable acting skills, she creates a fascinating character who teases and tantalises throughout Smith’s fascinating verbal strip-tease. Sumptuously gowned, she flirts outrageously with her audience, always promising more as she weaves together fact and myth to lead them up the proverbial garden path, where, in the stunning Spider Dance finale, all is revealed, literally.
Weaving in and out of the Lola’s story, dancer, Holly Durant excels in a series of glamorous burlesque routines which slyly comment on Lola’s story, while adding additional sex-appeal and eye-candy to an already remarkable presentation.
If you’re hoping to learn the true story behind Lola Montez’s famous shenanigans, you won’t find it in this production. But you will discover how deliciously decadent history can be when interpreted by Jackie Smith and Moira Finucane, and performed by Caroline Lee and Holly Durant.
The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez
Tuggeranong Arts Centre, 137 Reed Street, Greenway (ACT)
Performance: Wednesday 13 September 2017 – 8.00pm
The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez will also be presented at the Griffith Regional Theatre (15 September), Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkdale (19 September), Burrinja, Upwey (21 September), Riverlinks Eastbank, Shepparton (22 September), Kyneton Town Hall (23 September), and Gasworks Arts Park, Albert Park (28 – 30 September). For more information, visit: www.finucaneandsmith.com for details.
Image: Caroline Lee in The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez (supplied)
Review: Bill Stephens OAM