This is an astonishing, thought-provoking and gratifying experience. And it’s fun.
Moira Finucane. Image by Jodie Hutchison.
Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith’s Glory Box is burlesque and cabaret amplified, distorted and played backwards. Currently celebrating its ten year anniversary the Spiegeltent Johnston St, Collingwood, it lures you, briefly, into convention before subverting every expectation.
The audience is greeted at the door and personally seated so there is the feeling of occasion from the beginning. The venue is perfect for this show with its never-ending but never dull sequence of dazzling and disturbing acts. There is a seamless transition between each act: while one sashays out, another is lurking in the shade of a tent pole. The clever lighting combined with the layout of the Spiegeltent create light and shade, so that performers seem to appear from nowhere and add to the mystique of the experience. The diverse crowd is captivated from the start and are never once given leave to look away, except for at intermission.
Bursting with talent, performances are executed with precision and grace, leaving the impression that the production has been overseen by someone with exacting standards. The show begins with the terrifying and majestic form of Moira Finucane in a red velvet bikini popping balloons with– well you have to wait and see– moving to a gritty techno track and strobe lighting. For me, despite the impressive array of other acts, she is the highlight. Her intensity and athleticism, and ability to transcend gender, is compelling. Her performance as a man stripping to Divinyls I Touch Myself is convincing, hilarious and disturbing.
Another highlight is the hilarious German musical duo of the cowbell-playing songstress, Astrid, and her brother, Otto, a keytar-playing Robert Smith look-alike, whose relationship is a little too close. The diversity and quality of the acts makes it difficult to encompass the feel of the show, in few words. There is a peacock in jeggings, a breath-taking ‘dragonfly’ (Azaria Universe) balancing on a gold ball making paper butterflies flutter away with a paper fan, smoky cabaret starlets, a woman doing astonishing things with a rope, and always the strip tease, but turned on its head.
Yumi Umiumare is inspired in her portrayal of the Japanese sexual obsession with school girls and panties. A girl’s bag seizes control and becomes a horrifying head in one part of her act. She performs a striptease with kimonos in another, exploring ideas of how culture leaves its mark on a person.
A performance in which a woman inside a chandelier sits with her back to the audience and moves her naked upper body so that she becomes a work of art was another high point. Indescribably beautiful, it typifies the entire experience in that while nudity is presented without fanfare in much of the show, the eye is not drawn to the sexual, but to the exquisite grace of the strong female form.
To view this show purely for its aesthetic and entertainment value would be a satisfying enough experience, however, it is so richly layered and textured that meaning can be found in every spangle and feather. Glory Box, in its gallery of beautiful and extreme acts, conveys the multiple depictions of women in our world, from mother earth and nourisher to seductress, witch and warrior. And the execution is faultless. This is an astonishing, thought-provoking and gratifying experience. And it’s fun.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box
Melba Spiegeltent, Circus Oz, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood
Until August 24