Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box: La Revolucion
Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
December 2 – 13 2015
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
If you’ve never seen Finucane & Smith’s work now is your chance. The highlight of this year’s Wonderland festival at Brisbane Powerhouse is their Glory Box: La Revolucion – direct from a sellout South American tour – a show you should see at least once in a lifetime. Cabaret, Burlesque and Performance Art clash in a mostly raucous, outrageous, radical new take on late night live entertainment…only it’s not new at all. What Finucane & Smith do so well is reinvent the variety show. Combining song, dance, striptease and a firm political stance throughout, this is a show that doesn’t shy away from the risqué aspects of life and art, which challenge us and keep us talking long after the event is over. It’s edgy and entertaining, with something for everyone.
In the fine tradition of RENT (Maureen’s Over The Moon) a strong political message is delivered from the metaphorical mountaintop in dramatic, elegant prose. Finucane is a superb storyteller, but not in the traditional sense. It’s not only her words that titillate and captivate but her gesture and her fluid, formidable posturing that builds all the layers of all the tales others fear to tell. In Finucane’s hands, the beautiful becomes grotesque and the grotesque is made exquisite. Finucane is fierce. She is, as she says she is, a work of art.
The show opens late, which is to be expected on opening night, is it not? The Brisbane Powerhouse is packed. We’ve come in from drinks in The Parlour, an intimate venue on the Performance Lawn for the Wonderland launch, a suitably civilised setting before experiencing the madness of Glory Box. Here we are treated to performances from two of the Vanguard Burlesque girls. Jacqueline Fury’s fan dance particularly, showcases the exquisite beauty and grace of the style, and her flair for it.
Finucane & Smith’s burlesque is slightly more… NEO. It’s a lot edgier and not at all trying to emulate the elegance of the old school style of “the tease”. It’s more confrontational and some of it might not be to everyone’s taste, but it dishes up a heap of sweet and sour that your traditional fan dance just doesn’t bring to the table.
There is a vague through line, about a woman who hates red. I mean, the woman really HATES red. What else then, but for Finucane to appear in a red lingerie set with strategically placed shiny red hearts, which are ripped from the bra and knickers to reveal the pointy ends of silver pins beneath. Now we see what will become of the hated red balloons. It’s a crazy, cute routine that ends with a bang!
There is serious preparation in the splash seats prior to Moira Finucane’s famous milk act. I’m in a catsuit and my favourite Salita Matthews’ piece. The performers are busily covering the punters in front with pink plastic wrap. This does not bode well. We started out in the tiered seats and moved closer to the catwalk during interval. I’d seen the act on screen but never live until now and it’s as shocking and stimulating and spectacular as I expect it to be.
“It’s milking time!”
Until it’s something you start to think about, there’s not a lot you can do with two 2 Litre bottles of milk but Finucane has discovered it all and the imagery she creates here too is simply astounding. In fact, the only real disappointment of the entire evening is the show’s duration (100 mins running time including interval), with the majority of the acts sitting neatly in the bit-too-long category. The songs, which are used nicely to transition from one rambunctious act to the next, are mostly on the wrong side of self-indulgent and despite the vocalists knowing how to beautifully sell each song and change the mood, not one can keep us completely captivated for each number’s duration.
The highlight of the night, because we need its lightness, is the (Literal) Total Eclipse of the Heart in the style of David Armand-does-Natalie-Imbruglia’s TORN. Azaria Universe brings the house down and steals the show with a masterclass in comic increments and audience manipulation. I’m genuinely surprised when no one leaps to their feet at the end of this masterful (completely OTT) performance.
Finucane & Smith defined the genre and raised the bar when they put The Burlesque Hour together. With so many numbers in the show, including spectacular aerial acts, thy must be hard pressed to leave anything out. However, if they did so they could have a shorter, sharper, more shocking and entertaining show, perhaps without an interval. Glory Box: La Revolution is as fabulous a night out as you’d expect at any festival, anywhere in the world and it’s right here in our own backyard until December 13.
Whatever your fetish, Finucane & Smith is the must-see of Wonderland 2015