Star Wars Burlesque
25 February, 2012
Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box
09 June – 01 July 2012
I avoided the genre of many years, but I got a double dose of burlesque earlier this year, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Wow! Let me say that again, Wow!
Burlesque is a broad church. It encompasses the soft porn posturing of lithe-limbed babes, the aggressive ‘in-yer-face’ swagger of the polymorphously perverse purveyors of Lesbian chic, and almost everything in between. The word ‘burlesque’ carries a myriad of connotations, but it generally refers to a parodic, or exaggerated representation of female sexuality. It can be playful, sly, self-referential, comedic, erotic, exotic, sensual, or it can make the hapless, unsuspecting spectator tremble in shock and awe. The women of Finucane & Smith’s Burlesque Hour take no prisoners, inhabiting, as they do, the ‘shock and awe’ end of the burlesque spectrum, while the girls of the Star Wars Burlesque show would not be out of place in a pole dancing club.
Let’s start with the latter. These girls are a geek’s wet dream. They combine the iconography of the Star Wars franchise with seductive dance moves. The performers are predominantly female, and conventionally sexy. They move with grace, and pout with ‘come-hither’ finesse (when they’re faces aren’t hidden by Darth Vader or Storm Trooper masks). There are enough arcane Star Wars references, I have it on good authority, to satisfy the hard-core nerds who care about such details as the exact cut of Princess Leia’s hair, as well as enough bare flesh to satisfy the average punter who cares not a hoot for such lame geekery, but appreciates the female form sans excessive fabric.
A rather portly and somewhat sleazy Luke Skywalker is the master of ceremonies, and the master of the double entendre. He comes across like an intergalactic pimp, but his deliberately unctuous persona is strangely endearing. He also has a pretty good singing voice, and he throws in a few comic tunes to vary things up a little, too.
The girls are the Stars, of course, and they’re very easy on the heterosexual male’s eye. Unfortunately, for the female geeks, there’s not much beefcake on display, although most females in the audience appeared to be having a pretty good time gawking at the girls, anyway. I guess a lot of straight women enjoy looking at burlesque, too. There’s no mistaking this show for art. It’s lowbrow entertainment, a bit of silly fun, which panders to voyeuristic male gaze. What’s not to like?
At the other end of the burlesque scale we have Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box, and it’s no surprise to find that they’ve dispensed with the cheese, although their performance is not short on sleaze. But it’s not sleaze, as most people know it. These women use their tassels, glitter, and ruby red lipstick as lethal weapons, denying anyone who isn’t isn’t mesmerized by the mere sight of tits and ass the easy option of an easy ogle, or a quick deposit in the wank bank. Shit, when you look at these women, you’re coming face to face with the fucking Medusa. You gaze upon Finucane and her cohorts at your own risk.
This is not to say it’s impossible to enjoy a simple perve — the old gentleman seated next to couldn’t stop hooting and hollering as if he had a ringside seat at the Men’s Gallery (a so-called gentleman’s club in Melbourne, for those of you not familiar with my fair city). For me, though, the show was something of a revelation. I wasn’t prepared for the wanton aggression, and intellectual ambition. All kinds of female bodies — strong, soft, young, not so young — were on display, and very few of them pandered to what film theorists call the male gaze. I’m suspicious of those who claim to traffic in subversion, and I’m not even sure that subversion is possible today, yet there’s little doubt that these gutsy performers were not passive objects of desire, parading and prostrating themselves before smug, self-satisfied men secure in their God-given right to leer and sneer at women.
Finucane sets the tone with a confronting act that revisits the original scene of the crime — the Garden of Eden. She’s rabid, ferocious, Eve clad in a plastic bikini draped with glittering green leaves. She rambles on about whether or not she should share her apple with the audience. She speaks, she raves, she stops, and crunches the apple until it’s just pulp. Yes, she has sharp fucking teeth, and she knows how to bite! The woman is on fire, her energy is as palpable as the high voltage rock ‘n’ roll tunes that accompany most of the subsequent acts.
Highlights for me included Maude Davey’s rendition of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’, which she delivered while wearing Antlers — her version of the Patti Smith ode to unadulterated lust and desire, ‘Gloria’ also rocked the house. Special guest Ursula Martinez reprised her famous party trick, immortalized on a viral YouTube, which adds another dimension to the Glory Box theme, while cabaret artist Meow, Meow brought a touch of elegance to the proceedings with a couple of numbers that sounded as though they were channeled from the most decadent quarters of the Weimer republic.
For the most part, the music was very fucking loud!! The Jimi Hendrix classic ‘Foxy Lady’ was another highlight that married kinesthetic virtuosity to rock music. Harriet Ritchie appeared as a wolf dressed in a sexy, backless costume that raised the temperature in the already sweltering room.
Glory Box messes with your heart, head and groin, ensuring that you’ll never look at those zones of pleasure and pain in the same way ever again. Indubitably, shit I like!