“When she comes out dressed as a waitress, put this on.” ‘Uh-oh’ was my initial thought as the stagehand lass handed out a cloth before the show - just what was I in for? The answer turned out to be ‘fun, and a lot of it’ as time flew in the series of acts of The Burlesque Hour at The Street Theatre.
In these days of 3D TV (soon anyway) and Wii fit, many peeps may think Burlesque is another way of saying ‘porn on stage’, where men in trench coats lurk in the darkness. What about The Burlesque Hour? First, the essential information: yes they get their kit off and yes, they are women. OK, back to the review…Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, variety acts and music halls were the ‘thang’ for adult entertainment, mostly frequented by men, and yes it was sleazy. But recently, artists like Dita Von Teese have brought back the mystique and throbbing eroticism into acts that involve ropes, costumes and accompanying music. For The Burlesque Hour, there’s no pole, but there is a trapeze - no dollar stuffing in undies, but sugar cubes and bananas might count as legal tender. The show’s six performers are strong women - in physicality and personality: they represent feminine power as freedom, using their sexual energy for art, not table-dancing for a Chevy repayment.
Indeed, the Australian burlesque scene is dominated by creative duo Jackie Smith and Moira Finucane who for years have created performances with other artists to tour through the world, winning awards along the way - and after seeing this show, it’s easy to see why.
Setting the tone for the evening was Guinness World Record holder Jess Love in Star of the State Circus. Immediately, the audience (mostly women) knew that this show would be irreverent and integrative, and then… holy moly… who knew hula hoops could be so mesmerising?
Experienced stage and TV performer Miss Toni Lamond’s first of three interspersed acts explained what music halls were and for the most part she charmed with her clear commentary song and provided a calming influence on the rest of the show, which at times was over-the-top, but in a good way. Similarly Maude Davey’s singing in Feel Like a Woman brought in some audience interaction and some pretty skilful manoeuvres in gold high heels.
There were another 13 acts: some solo performances, others a combined unleashing of lasses, where some ‘popped’ more than others (literally).
Fulfilling the waitress-who’s-hot-for-more-than-coffee fantasy was the climax-building Expresso act with Finucane channelling the music into her body movements and facial expressions, certainly exploding in a bang of wow. Finucane’s other solo acts of Queen of Hearts and The Veil were also voiceless but provocative, and definitely the highlight of the evening before intermission was the crowd favourite Dairy Queen - I bet everyone had a craving for cornflakes after that one.
The younger protégés/ingénues got to exhibit their own spice and sauciness too - kicking ass was Yumi Umiumare in Hebi Onna with a lot of ‘don’t mess with me’ focussed choreography, using the full stage and then some. Azaria Universe swung herself into a frenzy on the trapeze in Eve and with a bit of lip syncing in Pearls, though this was one of a few acts that went for a bit longer than was most effective and repeated the same comic element exhaustively. But these are minor quibbles, as each of these three brought with them their own personalities and creative bursts.
Distilling the essence of kinky were the back-of-house wonders, for example the lighting by Marko Respondeck expertly switched between effects, especially in The Veil, using high intensity white light to accentuate the wisps of smoke.
As for costumes - yes clothes! - David Anderson certainly got to stock the wardrobe with all manner of flash and dazzle, and a bit of fur too: sometimes what you don’t see is the most erotic of all.
Taking the audience back to the halls of the 1900s was the clever and wow-I-feel-special elements to Adrienne Chisholm’s set design, with rich fabrics, lanterns and cute little cabaret tables near the stage (just be warned that your glass of chardonnay might end up as something else).
And the music, wow it’s chaotic rock, bass-thumping and energetic electronica, then tempered by classical waltzes and fem pop ballads from artists such as Christina Aguilera.
So, is this show an over-hyped Victoria’s Secret runway rip-off or thought-provoking performance art?
For anyone that writes letters to the editor complaining about Miranda Kerr’s bosom on bus shelters and tut-tuts any time a tween swears like a sailor on shore leave, then stay home and watch The Good Life. But oh, my fellow quirky bots, if you’ve got a sense of humour, like to be challenged with imaginative art and don’t mind shock value, then get your kit on and sashay your bum to The Burlesque Hour for thrills and spills - a trench coat might be a good idea after all!
Finucane & Smith’s
The Burlesque Hour… She’s Back!
Venue: The Street Theatre, Childers St Canberra City West
Dates: Thursday 11 Through Saturday 20 February
Times: Thurs 11 – Sat 13 & Tues 16 – Thurs 18 @ 8pm
Fri 19 & Sat 20 Feb @ 7pm & 9.30pm
Valentine’s Day Special Sunday February 14 @ 6pm
Tickets: Standard: $37 Concession $33 Group +6 $30
Catwalk Tix: Only $10 More!
Valentine’s: $43 Twilight Show W/ Cocktails All Night!
Bookings: 6247 1223 | www.thestreet.org.au