Interview and review by Christina Amphlett for Beat Magazine, see it in it’s full context here.
Forget those tired old burlesque dancers swooning on stage, all dolled up in sequins and feathers galore. The Burlesque Hour brings a far more surreal experience to the table, startling and exciting audiences through a rather whacky method of seduction. Feathers and all.
The Burlesque Hour co-founder, Moira Finucane, pushes all the right boundaries when delving into the art of tease. But when the make-up comes off, she’s still known to have a good chuckle. “I think if we took ourselves seriously, you know, it wouldn’t work,” she says.
Finucane first had a vision of velvet curtains, Chinese lanterns, and a waterproof catwalk that could handle the stubbornest of liquids. Now after being in the game for fifteen years, she has perfected her ever-changing, monstrously raunchy performance.
“The show just gets edgier, not more mainstream, each year because our audience has grown with us,” she says of her numerous loyal fans. “It’s such a seduction but you still find yourself giggling.”
After watching Finucane dancing her heart out to Purple Rain – in her birthday suit, naturally – as water cascades down from the ceiling, you’d stifle a smirk, too. “You can just have a hoot or you can look into the deeper symbolism. The joke’s not at the audience, it’s with the audience; everybody’s taken along for the ride,” says Finucane.
Finucane started out touring around the underground traps all over the world before breaking into the mainstream. “People told me, ‘Oh, it’s too wild! People aren’t ready for this, Moira.’” But the general public reacted differently. “Some people get shocked, but worldwide sell-out shows can’t be wrong,” she says.
Finucane and co-creator, Jackie Smith now draw crowds all over the world with their enticingly disturbing selection of burlesque freaks. The Burlesque Hour has been seen by over 60,000 people around the world, won six theatre awards and been acclaimed in ten different languages.
While they aim for shock value, their main concern is that the audience is comfortable when confronted by naked women dressed like Cousin It, or Ethiopian circus goddess, Sosina Wogayehu, cracking her whip like no tomorrow.
“We want the audience to feel like they’ve got a chandelier over their head, not for all the glamour to all happen on stage,” says Finucane. “Audiences are curious and I have a theory about audiences: if you take care of them, if you really love your audience, you can take them everywhere.” And with such a wide range of genres in the show, there’s bound to be something for everyone.
Having been in the game for so long, Finucane has borrowed from German cabaret, the gothic scene, high literature, political devices, saints and fairytales. Finucane says she is comfortable onstage, thrusting herself into the spotlight, warts and all.
“All of those works are characters. If I’m in the character, I don’t feel exposed,” she says. “It’s about the art rather than me as a lady thinking, ‘Do I look good in this veil? Does it look flattering on me?’”
Finucane also shamelessly admits her soft spot for pop. “I’m a great lover of pop music and pop culture of all kinds. Anything from monastic music to Dutch hardcore to ‘80s disco to trance,” she says. Finucane’s love for cheese is clear from the first act where she commits to interpret the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself through dance and dressed in drag.
The Burlesque Hour even borrows some of our best Aussie talents to perform in the show. This time around, they’ve somehow convinced the oozingly-talented Pamela Rabe (think back to Secret Life Of Us or that movie with Elle McPherson, Sirens) to kick it ol’ school and perform a front of curtain ‘erotic’ monologue.
Burlesque queen, Meow Meow, will also be making an appearance, along with the hilarious Berlin punk band, Die Roten Punkte, who plan to bring down the Melbourne house with their song for Sydney, Second Best Friend.
“[The Burlesque Hour]’s changed and it’s evolved and travelled the world. This is a love letter to Melbourne, and we love you. You cheered us and you sent us out there into the big wide world,” smiles Finucane.