Thursday, September 27, 2012

Smouldering Dancing Queens - Caravan Burlesque

by Gai Anderson

Caravan Burlesque
Finucane & Smith,
Theatre Royal , Hobart

Finucane and Smiths Caravan Burlesque is an action packed show, a scintillating, body - beautiful, writhing, all dance-spectacular. Driven relentlessly for the most by a boisterous rock and roll, disco, pop, gogo and even Bollywood soundtrack, its short and sharp, song and character-based routines are fantastically entertaining.
Filled with endless luscious costumes, bordello-red velvet set, seductive lighting and atmospheres you can cut with a knife, it is all, and more, than we have come to expect from the latest reincarnation of carnival burlesque. And that’s without even mentioning the shoes!

But things are not all that they seem here, as Caravan Burlesque is much more than ordinary burlesque, with its off-beat and edgy darkness only just hiding beneath its fluffy exterior. For here Finucane and Jones cleverly play with contradictions between style and form, tempo and action to take us on a roller coaster ride that slides seamlessly from belly splitting hilarity to moments of wonder and even down right terror

Inspired by a romantic vision of Australia’s wild past of touring vaudeville and variety, the show is filled with larger than life characters who inject an attitude that pushes and twists the genre in both adulation and lampoon sometimes almost to the edge of tearing.

From the inspired subtlety of Finucanes opening gender-bending number performed with tongue-in-cheek hilarity to the song “I touch myself”; to the hunky, jack-booted, mini-skirted token-bloke, mouthing “ Mashed potato” and the Beatles; or to the bob-haired swan lake inspired, doppelganger act that transforms into a psycho snake pit, ambiguity is as much front and centre as the ever present and driven music.
There are so many stand-out thought provoking moments and the multi talented performers are all stars performing numerous solo and combination routines . The voluptuous bodied, sequined, mostly naked 1920s boudoir number, and the ridiculously self deprecating, striptease whilst continuing to hoola-hoop, lying on the floor silliness, are two of my favourites.

But Moira Finucane’s heightened, stylised vignettes are what really hit the mark for me in this show. To be fair, they do stand out in contrast because of their stillness, for Moira doesn’t  really dance, she smoulders.

Through a sometimes subtle but always visceral manipulation of gesture and posture she creates a tension that is palpable. Her more than 6 foot statuesque and thin muscularity is exaggerated by a series amazing gothic gowns in Morticia  black, greek goddess white and finally bordello red. But her red heart-bikini stick figure goddess routine takes the cake - sans huge shoes and enormous hair topped with a flock of helium balloons, it is an absolute treat for the senses. All the while gyrating epileptically to psychedelic thrash she pops the endless tsunami of balloons that keep appearing with the multitude of nasty spikes that protrude from the erogenous zones of her slinky costume.

There is endless subtlety as well as brashness in this show, and its unfortunate that some of that subtlety was lost by putting what should be in a much more intimate show into the size of the theatre Royal. It would have worked much better in the Peacock Theatre. But the cast worked really hard to make that connection with the audience and for the most part were successful, with the finale getting many up on their feet and dancing to Abba .

Luckily I have seen Finucane before in a much smaller venue but some people up the back of the stalls unfortunately gave up and left early.

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