WHAT’S burlesque all about? Gayertree Subramanium discovers the one-of-a-kind wonder that is Glory Box, which premiers tomorrow.
Seductive, subversive, electrifying, with a big red luscious pounding heart.
This is how cabaret doyenne Moira Finucane, artist and creator of Glory Box: Pandora’s box meets Burlesque Hour, describes the art of burlesque.
Glory Box brings to you luscious lashings of audaciously tantalising tease, and fabulously indecent acts, accompanied by a rollercoaster ride of circus and side show, classical dance, fairy tales and gothic queens.
The show, which premiers tomorrow night at fortyfivedownstairs, features some of the world’s finest, most acclaimed cabaret starlets – including Ursula Martinez who single-handedly made Salman Rushdie blush like a bride with nothing else but a red silk hanky, three time Guinness record breaking female sword swallower Miss Behave, international kamikaze cabaret sensation Meow Meow, sharp-suited killer-heeled trapeze artist Anna Lumb, showgirl diva Maude Davey, and backroom ballerinas Holly Durant and Harriet Ritchie, with Moira Finucane leading the Medusa Mega Mix (as Medusa of course).
Meld speaks exclusively with Moira Finucane, to give you a little more of an insight into what the art of tease encompasses and the lowdown on what to expect at the show, which runs till July 1.
Meld: Tell me more about Glory Box. What has its journey been thus far?
Moira: We premiered the Burlesque Hour of which this is the latest incarnation, 8 years ago. We have been touring the world and the best of those works, is what we thought we should show our audiences. It’s been seen by 70, 000 people since, has won numerous awards, and been reviewed and critically acclaimed in 10 languages. Every year we come back to Melbourne with a new version, for it was here the show was born. We decided to call it Glory Box, Pandora’s Box meets Burlesque Hour – the present that keeps on unwrapping itself.
Meld: Why do you think audiences love the show so much?
Moira: It’s a show that has so many faces. It has circus, sideshow, the gothic and the literary, the highbrow and the lowbrow, and lots of popular songs from industrial hardcore techno to Chinese kitsch pop to early opera. I think that’s why it appeals to so many types of people. It is a journey into the unexpected. It has influences from art forms that are both really old and new. With our artists coming from all over the world, it really has become a melting pot for all sorts of different kinds of art.
Meld: How do audiences react upon seeing what you have to offer, usually?
Moira: The show always has a different reaction with each city and the different cultures. The show keeps evolving. I remember in Hong Kong once, this young artist from Beijing, grabbed my arm once after the show and said to me “Your work is liberation!” At another festival that we were at, this Zimbabwean dancer came up to me and said “My mother would love your work. Your work is about freedom.” One of the joys of being an artist and doing a show like this is the satisfaction of knowing your work has had an impact.
Meld: How did you get involved in burlesque?
Moira: I was invited to perform in a performance party in a really famous club in Melbourne in the 90s. I took up the challenge and the work that I created was electrifying and could get people’s attention at 3am. I was creating really short, really unforgettable acts, in performance parties and clubs. That then led on to performing at galleries and I was then asked to tour internationally. After a while, I decided to create my own show with Jacqui Smith, with whom I co-created the Burlesque Hour to put together a collection of acts that I’d seen other amazing artists do. That’s how it all begun.
Meld: What is the burlesque scene in Australia like? Is it still underground or is it starting to be more mainstream?
Moira: I used to work burlesque in its original meaning, which was a parody, a grotesquery, an exaggeration. It was more of a sensibility rather than an art form. When I first started creating burlesque, the burlesque revival wasn’t even a twinkle in anybody’s eye! The Burlesque Hour was therefore created for a broad audience – the well heeled, the high heeled, the young the old, the gay and the straight, people who love theatre and those who don’t. Although the underground world was where most of this work was created, we have in fact been at the Sydney Opera House 3 times, and at major festivals all over the world.
Meld: Do you think pushing the boundaries constantly has ensured your longevity in the scene and kept people asking for more and more?
Moira: People do ask for more and more each time, we have greedy audiences! We call our work the “Venus fly trap of Cabaret”. Once you get in, not only can you not get out, but you don’t want to! The show always does push boundaries. My work doesn’t aim to be shocking, it aims to be provocative. To be provocative means to invite, and to stimulate and to create discussion, and I think that’s always been my aim as an artist. Audiences can take it or leave it. I love that complexity and all those multiple layers.
Meld: Have there been any wardrobe malfunctions in your career performing?
Moira: Oh my God! Every show! The burlesque hour is very ambitious and the tour took us to many places – major European theatres, tiny little venues, even windswept coast lines in the country side. When you go perform in places like that, everything changes around you. Half your wardrobe isn’t there when you turn around! These things happen all of the time! We laugh and we cry.
Meld: What’s your favourite type of costume to perform in?
Moira: I have a red velvet bikini covered in 3 inch metal spikes. It is one of my favourite acts and has been seen all over the world from Budapest to Stockholm to London to everywhere. The spikes are so sharp and dangerous. When I pop 150 balloons on it, especially to some phenomenal hard core techno, there’s an incredible frenzy. The audiences erupt always, no matter what country it is.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the event website.