BWW Reviews: Naked Truths at Finucane & Smith's GLORY BOX: PARADISE
I will admit that I am not a fan of modern burlesque. The renaissance of this art form in recent years, and its subsequent rise in popularity with global audiences has somewhat confounded me. Beautiful and talented though burlesque performers may be, it still seems to me a rather limited expression of the female experience. As women we are so often sold the concept that bodies are an art form in and of themselves, yet we remain the only naked ones in the room. Burlesque as I've seen it tends to play into this theme. No, the women don't technically get naked, but they perform and tease as if this is the ultimate goal - and coy or commanding, they are always playing to the fully clothed.
Enter Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith, the creators and directors of GLORY BOX: PARADISE, who take this art form and turn it on its head. And then set it gloriously, deliriously spinning. For Finucane and Smith, nakedness is not a device or a promise; it is not an offering to an expectant audience. Rather each performer owns their nakedness on stage, a nakedness that is itself presented as an essential fact. Women have bodies. And yes, they can be beautiful to behold. But not just in the constrictive, passive way beauty is so often presented to us. This is not beauty designed soley for the gaze.
Deep? You betcha. I've seen an earlier incarnation from the GLORY BOX team, and had some time to consider their art and effect - and I'm still thinking about it now. At the beginning of this performance Finucane, the sinewy master of these ceremonies, quips that three elements are required for art and its audience - passion, liquor and unrealistic expectation. There is no doubt my expectations are high after the revelation that was their 2012 Melbourne show. But it is dry(ish) July for this reviewer, so I'm approaching this new show with said expectation and passion, only.
To my sober(ish) delight, Finucane and her troupe of women don't disappoint. The same wit and humour is present, as are the impressive tricks with hula hoops (the dynamite Jess Love) and handkerchiefs (um, how does Ursula Martinez do that last part?!). Holly Durant, Lily Paskas and Yumi Umiumare are all terrific, engaging dancers, and there are winks and nods to traditional burlesque through-out (feathers and glitter and tassels all make appearance). But each is a leaping off point to something deeper, something far more interesting. Sometimes the leap is into a darker humour, sometimes it is into the unknown. When Finucane shivers and jolts through "A Sunny Afternoon" the audience is given the unique opportunity to follow the performance through to their own conclusion. Vulnerable, defiant, desperate? The decision remains ours to make.
So too with the show-stopping "Dairy Queen" routine. Subversive in spades, and requiring of protective gear for those in the front row, I have my own theory on this iconic performance but I don't want to spoil the fun for the uninitiated. Political or provocative (or both!) - again the decision is ours to make.
Finucane & Smith have always gone beyond the boundaries of burlesque. Together they have created a salon of artists and performance that combine the sexiest elements of cabaret, circus and theatre arts. Because it is sexy in the end, far more sexy and honest than someone twirling around in a body-size champagne glass. There is a place for both, no doubt. But if you want a little truth with your trip to paradise - well, GLORY BOX will be the show to do it.
Sidebar: Special mention to the incomporable Sarah Ward of Yana Alana fame. Yeah I'm still humming along to her 'song about cats' today. The woman is glorious. More of Ms Ward please, Melbourne - more!!
Finucane & Smith's GLORY BOX: PARADISE
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
To 11 August: Thurs 7:00pm, Fri-Sat 7:00pm and 9:30pm, Sun 5:30pm
For tickets and further information click here.
Image Credit: Jodie Hutchinson