The Burlesque Hour has been teasing and tantalizing Melbourne for seven years now. The brainchild of Jackie Smith and Moira Finucane, it began as a collection of acts staring the gothically inclined Finucance, Butoh-trained cabaret artist Yumi Umiumare and circus powerhouse Azaria Universe. Set in the underground, speak-easy atmosphere of fortyfivedownstairs and complete with catwalk and cabaret-style setting, The Burlesque Hour has become synonymous with good quality, eccentric and boundary-pushing acts packed together in a full-length show.
The Burlesque Hour has toured the world and grown bigger along the way, but always manages to revisit its hometown fans – Finucane and Smith don’t forget their roots! Perhaps that’s the reason for the name of this current season – The Burlesque Hour LOVES Melbourne.
As the show has evolved, new and different performers have come in and out of the fold. For this current season, Maude Davey, Sosina Wagayeho and dance duo Holly Durant and Harriet Ritchie join Finucance, along with special guest stars who make one-week-only appearances.
There’s still a strong gender-bending, sexually-charged sensibility with acts ranging from Maude Davey’s totally nude (except for a chunky diamante necklace) rendition of I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl to Holly Durant’s take on Salome’s dance of the seven veils. They are acts exposing and celebrating women’s bodies in all their natural and not necessarily-so-young form, warts and all.
This week’s guest, musical great Deborah Conway was best and most heartfelt as herself (fully dressed!) singing her vocally rich ballad Pity the Beast and less convincing when she was dolled up in sequins and ruffles doing an interpretation of Goldfinger.
Wagayeho is the juggling and whip-cracking expert. Her contributions are sexy and rather straightforward – they could do with a couple of unexpected surprises. Durant and Ritchie’s dance routines start cutely enough but have a depraved bend that keeps each one interesting.
Finucane’s five different acts give a sense of her chameleon-like abilities and love of the grotesque. Each involves some sort of transformation unfolding before our eyes – a slow-building orgasm over a meat pie to hard rock, an epiphany about looking at art while getting more and more saturated with water and her oldie but goodie drag king strip tease as a male bogan getting off to The Divinyls I Touch Myself. Balloons, messy liquids and cigarettes are Finucane’s props of choice and she uses them in more ways than one might think possible.
There’s a lot of burlesque around Melbourne town, but don’t be confused. The Burlesque Hour is in a special echelon of the form. While not everything hits the mark all the time, the strike rate is pretty darn high. The Burlesque Hour has become a brand unto itself and the thing about brand names, is that they are usually reliable and consistent. The Burlesque Hour is reliable and consistent, but only in its continued ability to entertain and challenge.
Burlesque Hour LOVES Melbourne
Finucane & Smith
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: 17 June – 31 July, 2011
Times: 7pm Thursday-Sunday, late show Saturdays 9:30pm
Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com | 9662 9966