Left - Moira Finucane (Photo - Pru Upton). Cover - Moira Finucane, Yumi Umiumare and Azaria Universe.
Burlesque is a word that gets bandied about quite a lot these days. It has experienced a revival in recent years and as a result, a plethora of performance companies have emerged that explore the form. It seems that every lady and her dog wants to slap on some nipple tassels and give it a twirl. But a percentage of these performers use the conventions of burlesque to produce little more than pretty strip teases. That’s why it’s such a relief to see a show like The Burlesque Hour. A show which takes the cabaret form back to it’s origins, presenting pointed, political, intelligent, funny, grotesque and deeply sexy explorations of femininity, stereotype and gender.
The Burlesque Hour is the creation of cabaret masters Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith, along with performers Azaria Universe, Yumi Umiumare, Maude Davey and Kitten K.O. (Holly Durant and Harriet Ritchie). It has toured extensively both nationally and internationally and now has somewhat of a cult following.
The Burlesque Hour is a joyful celebration of female empowerment. The performers cleverly and deliberately subvert iconic and archetypal female imagery, including the diva, the schoolgirl, the virgin and the whore. We watch, and in return are watched. The performers invert the gaze of the audience, reflecting back upon us our preconceived notions of femininity, by being completely in control and aware of the images that they are portraying.
These are highly charged and extraordinary female performers. Finucane’s soup solo is at once highly erotic and disturbingly violent. She slowly builds the audience to a climax (no pun intended) and then skillfully dissipates the tension with a wry smile that lets the audience in on the joke. Yumi Umiumare’s idiosyncratic and frenetic Mouth Piece left the audience gasping at its restrained power, which was so beautifully held you could hear a pin drop. Azaria Universe utilizes her circus skills to present imagery that is at once lovely and grotesque, not to mention a brilliant show-stopping version of Total Eclipse of the Heart. Maude Davey engages in some monkey business that proves stripping can be funny as well as sexy and Kitten K.O. present a polished bit of choreography.
These are powerful women. Their brand of burlesque is deeply sexy, smart, funny and brave. I highly recommend that you go and see them. But I do proffer a warning: you may leave with an insatiable desire to take your clothes off.
The Burlesque Hour… She’s Back!
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne
Dates: 7 August to 14 September
Times: Wednesday to Sunday. Wed & Thurs 8pm. Friday, Saturday & Sunday 7pm. Late Show! Sat 9.30pm
Tickets: $38 full/$29 conc
Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs 03 9662 9966 or online www.fortyfivedownstairs.com. Table bookings available