Left – Anna Lumb
Follow the fairy-lit stairwell down and you come to the basement theatre of fortyfivedownstairs, tonight outlandish with scarlet oriental lamps and sumptuous drapes. The staff are glamorous, the crowd fervent with anticipation. This evening this room will be the court of Melbourne's queen of burlesque, Moira Finucane.
Don't come expecting some coy fluttering of feather fans, however. Finucane takes the art of burlesque and straps a rocket to it. With partner Jackie Smith, she has been directing The Burlesque Hour since its premiere season in this same venue eight years ago. Its latest incarnation, Glory Box, is truly something to behold, a blend of bedazzling dance, artful circus, spoken word, songs and some acts which virtually defy description, including a masterful one-woman duet and one very saucy magic trick.
Finucane herself is a stupendous stage presence, completely owning the room whether she's coming on as Eve in fig leaves, a butoh style Medusa or any other guise. Her cast comprises outstanding talents such as Anna Lumb, Maude Davey and the girls of Kitten KO (Holly Durant and Harriet Ritchie), as well as some world class guest stars. Cabaret powerhouse Meow Meow brings her signature frazzled diva act, packed with wicked humour and at times heart-rending pathos. As for Ursula Martinez from Britain, when I say her strip tease is explosive, I'm being quite literal.
The show is unabashedly erotic but there is far more to it than a bit of tease. Glory Box both revels in sexuality and parodies conventions of sexual imagery. There's a sexy werewolf and bikini girls who strut and leer like blokes on a pub crawl. Lumb prefaces her graceful trapeze act by lip-syncing to Tom Waits at his gruffest. An antlered she-satyr is shown as vulnerable and a doll-like figure clad in love-hearts as wild with rage.
The style ranges from ultra-feminine to androgynous to animalistic to unearthly. Together the disparate acts make a strong statement on female sexuality in all its forms: youthful and mature; delicate and muscular; hetero, lesbian and all shades in between.
You expect burlesque to be shocking, sexy and hilarious and Glory Box is all these at full throttle. Where this show really stands out is its willingness to be serious too, to go cerebral, or heartfelt, or haunting. It is telling that author Christos Tsiolkas (Dead Europe, The Slap) was brought on board to write a segment for it. Not only is Glory Box unafraid to show you a bit of skin, it is unafraid of exposing deep emotions and powerful ideas.
Some of the acts are Burlesque Hour classics, others are all new, but any one of them would lift the tone of a regular burlesque night. To see them all together makes for a kind of super-charged theatrical experience. If you come later in the run, you'll get sword swallower Miss Behave instead of Meow Meow or Martinez, so it'll be a slightly different kind of fantastic but whatever the line up, The Burlesque Hour will surely give you a spectacle like no other.
The Burlesque Hour: The Glory Box
Finucane & Smith
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs | 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: Thu 7 June to Sun 1 July
Times: Thu 7pm, Fri/Sat 7pm & 9.30pm, Sun 5.30pm
Tickets: $56 – $25
Bookings: 03 9662 9966