10 years ago, I was writing for a dance street mag in Sydney. Tired of DJs but increasingly interested in the performing arts, I went along to see a burlesque show at The Sydney Opera House. Back then, I wasn't quite sure what burlesque was. The word and the performance it represented seemed an anachronism, yet it seemed to be making a comeback. I was curious.
I saw a showcase presented by Finucane & Smith, and felt that I'd been introduced and welcomed into another world. This was a world that celebrated femininity in so many different ways it dazzled my mind. It was a crazy ride, casually sexy, emotionally demanding and dark at times, and fun. Really, really fun.
Fast forward to a decade later. Finucane & Smith are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their show Glory Box. In a Spiegeltent. On Johnson Street in Collingwood. No, I'm not kidding.
And it was an experience even more special than that one all those years ago at The Big Pointy Building on Sydney Harbour.
The statuesque Moira Finucane opened the show with the same totally crazy performance that impressed 10 years ago, with the balloons and the balloons and the crazy techno music and the balloons and the crazy dance moves. This performance started out with less balloons than I remembered. Weren't there more balloons 10 years ago?
Suddenly there were more balloons. Titty spikes and groin spikes and the sound of bursting balloons was more spectacular than Sydney fireworks on New Year's Eve. And 10 years later? Moira's body is as lean as it was back then. The music was as aggressive and fun as it was back then. The performer still seemed to be enjoying this routine as much as she did back then and... and it's still just so much fun.
I don't have a program, so I don't have the performers' names. So basically, I don't know what was going on. But.
There was Yumi Umiumare (see her once, remember her forever) being typically crazy with millions of panties being removed from beneath her school skirt. There seems to be some comment on some contemporary Japanese fetishes at play here, but as deranged as she sometimes seems, she is also an amazingly impressive and disciplined traditional Japanese dancer.
Although burlesque is often thought of as a form of striptease – and make no mistake, there is plenty of nudity here – it actually gives each performer the room to play with the idea of celebrating sexuality in whatever way they want. Thus, in this show, a topless, scantily clad performer dances her routine with her back to the audience, never turning around, and with the lighting just so, it is a very sensual routine indeed. This, along with the aerial rope performance and another featuring Finucane, a black veil and cigarette smoke, were probably the most sophisticated acts of the evening.
Then at random and for no apparent reason, a naked cyclist appeared, rode through the audience and was gone. There was also the appearance of the most diminutive stripper this writer has ever seen and oh, that guy stripper. Smug, yokel of a dude took to the stage and had me thinking oh well, guess they have to do one for the ladies in the audience. What happened next was very amusing. Kudos to this performer.
There was also audience participation in the form of The Angels' classic rock anthem Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, which left a miffed expression on a few audience members' faces. Hilarious. And the totally silly pearl necklace rendition of Total Eclipse Of The Heart, another act from all those years ago that made such an impression. Almost as big an impression as the routine I think is probably called Milk. If they offer you protective covering, accept it, then watch in awe at the deranged hilarity that unfolds. The ode to morpheine addiction was also so stylishly wrong.
A decade ago, a version of this show introduced me to the worlds of burlesque and cabaret. A decade later, it's still as fresh and enthralling and fun as it ever was, and seeing it in a Spiegeltent in my local suburb... nights like this are the reason I'm a Sydney expat.
Thank you, Finucane & Smith.
Finucane & Smith presents
The Glory Box: Tenth Anniversary
Venue: Melba Spiegeltent | 35 Johnson St, Collingwood
Dates: Aug 14 – 24, 2014
Times: Thurs – Sat 7pm | late shows Fri & Sat 9.30pm | Sun 5.30pm
Tickets: $55 – $45 | catwalk $65 | second row priority $60
Bookings: trybooking.com | moirafinucane.com