21 June 2007

The Burlesque Hour

The Burlesque Hour
21 June 2007

I was told off this week for having a 'feminist rant' about The Burlesque Hour. Let me share.

The Burlesque Hour takes a genre that has (at times) and is (at times) used to demean, objectify, humiliate and embarrass women. This show subverts this genre – then rips it to shreds, cut the shreds into smaller pieces, grinds them into the ground with a Doc Martin and a Manolo Blahnik and re-creates something that is positive, empowering, celebratory, powerful and just fabulous.

If this kind of questioning of gender roles, sexuality and sexual politics is ranting, then I’m very happy to rant.

The Burlesque Hour has been around since 2004. This was my third viewing and it gets better every time. There are some old favourites missing, but the new material is just as addictive. Jackie Smith and Moira Finucane continue to create extraordinarily original, daring, shockingly hilarious, sassy, sexy and mind-blowingly intelligent theatre.

Each piece is superbly conceived and executed. Azaria Universe’s bearded sheman proves the inter-changeability of gender roles; Yumi Umiumare reminds us that the cute little hello kitty girl could be a demonic little hell cat, and the fixed pout of painted doll could mean she’s broken; and Moira Finucane finds the grotesque within the coquette.

The strip in this show isn’t just about tits and titillation and the final revelation is not a brazilian wax. These women reveal power, humour, strength, moodiness, frustration, joy, loneliness and pain. This strip isn’t about the body. Bodies are simply bodies in this show.

Seeing this strip isn’t about anonymity or hiding or voyeurism. The Burlesque Hour is as much about the performer as the audience and makes the gathered crowd interact and join in the fun and celebration.

For the ultimate subversion, Angus Cereni (a bloke) guest stars. Angus strips to a song written for a teenage girl in a most un-teenage girl manner. This is mighty fine irony. I do, however, wonder why it wasn’t a complete strip. It felt slightly strange to have the one male in the show not completely reveal.

It’s hard to pick favourite moments, but two always stick with me. Moira’s butohesque “I Want You” is as true and powerful expression of repression and longing and guilt as I’ve ever witnessed. And then there’s Azaria’s “Total Eclipse of The Heart”. She takes drag, strip and 80s pop and hurls herself, and the absurdity, frustration, sadness and hilarity of it all into our faces. It’s brilliant.

Finally, as Moira’s Argentina Gina Catalina says, “Big minds have great sex.” So please, enlarge your minds and your thinking and get to The Burlesque Hour.

This review originally appeard on AussieTheatre.com.