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May 8, 2021

The Dairy Queen comes to town

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Finucane & Smith’s world-famous critically acclaimed Caravan Burlesque arrives in the northern rivers! We talked to artistic director, star and co-creator Moira Finucane about what to expect.

You’re most famous for the Burlesque Hour; why Caravan Burlesque? What’s the difference? We created The Burlesque Hour seven years ago, as a velvet-lined, Chinese-lanterned luscious salon in which the Variety form exploded into the new, the unexpected, and the unforgettable. We created it as a seduction, where people, all kinds of people, could come and see indelible images of humanity, beauty, desire and joy. We had no idea whether it would work and we threw open the doors one cold winter night in Melbourne. We sold out the night we opened. We won six theatre awards, rave reviews, and since then The Burlesque Hour has been seen by 80,000 people all over the world, has been acclaimed in ten languages and had three seasons at the Sydney Opera House. The young, the old, the straight, the gay, the well-heeled, the high-heeled, and people who don’t even like theatre are our treasured patrons. One of my favourite quotes is a punter in Geelong overheard saying to his mate, ‘This beats the fuck out of Friday Night Footy’.

Why Caravan Burlesque? It’s our road train of the risqué! It’s created specially to allow us to take this work to regional and remote Australia. It’s a pop-up Parisian salon that can go anywhere, stay for one night or one month, and transform everything from grand old theatres to atmospheric but empty community halls into the best and wildest Variety show you’ve ever seen. You know – we have been to Hungary but never to Horsham! When Regional Arts Victoria commissioned us to create a regional touring version of the work, we jumped at the chance

So when do you get on the road? And where do you fly in from? We fly in directly from Buenos Aires, after a four-country tour of South America, to Victoria’s Gippsland region in May where, within the space of a week, we’ll be playing in a major festival in South America in a massive old 1930s theatre, then straight into communities and halls of Gippsland for the Creative Gippsland Festival. Then it was on to sell-out seasons in WA, NT, QLD and then Tasmania, NSW, Victoria again and the ACT. Six months! Then I go to straight to Paris to collaborate with a couple of the museums there. It really is going to be extraordinary! And yes, we might think of strapping a giant stiletto onto the roof, but I am not sure of wind resistance – we don’t want to slow down!

What can people expect when you come to town? Okay, this is what we say! The legendary, genre-defying salon of seductive, subversive and electrifying acts has set critics raving and 80,000 audience members around the world in raptures. Winner of six theatre awards, critically acclaimed in ten languages, this is a travelling emporium that fuses demimonde nightclub with jaw-dropping cabaret, insolent and exotic live art and seductive spectacle. What does that look like once you are seated with a drink in your hand and your eyes on the velveteen stage? Artists and jaw-dropping acts from all over the world – with influences as diverse as five traditional Ethiopian dance styles, to the backroom ballet of 30s Paris, to circus, sideshow, rock’n’roll, gothic literary mayhem, gorgeous torch songs, disco go-go, Bollywood, butoh – it really is a cultural hotpot in every sense of the word!

What kind of reactions do you get? I’ll never forget the night I was absolutely exhausted leaning against the bar in Hong Kong having a Tsingtao beer after the show at 1am. This young Beijing artist came up to me and grabbed my arm. ‘Your work,’ he said ‘is liberation!’

A couple of years ago I was at the Sziget Festival in Budapest on an island in the middle of the Danube – 390,000 people from all over Europe. I had one-year-old twins then and word got around. I used to go out on this massive dance floor and have a dance after the show, and all these beautiful young people, from every country in Europe, would go ‘there she is, the Red Hot Mama!’ and come and chat to me – it was really lovely, but I had to watch my props – The Sziget Festival took souveniring to a whole new level!

What keeps you going? Weetbix! No, seriously, there’s a couple of things that keep the petrol topped up. Meeting new audiences is something fundamental for me – Finucane & Smith only ever employ artists that adore audiences; we share the love, and no matter how wild things get, there is always this beautiful sense that the joke and the work is with the audience, not at them. The other thing I love is finding extraordinary artists and bringing them to new audiences – Paul Cordeiro is the Bollywood Love God, the Handsomest Dancer Ever Born; to see him tango or go-go is an exercise in pure joy, and he was recommended to us by Virginia Hyam at the Sydney Opera House – I had never even heard of him before and now he has travelled Australia with us. And Salome by Holly Durant, who has been living and dancing in Paris for years now – it’s absolutely breathtaking. And then of course there’s my Queen of Hearts – which is one of my most famous acts the world over – I have sweltered in Edinburgh, been snowed on in Sweden, been mobbed in Tokyo, and had headlines in London ‘Freak show seduces A-List’ red velvet bikini covered in three-inch spikes and 150 red balloons. She goes off with a bang!

Your Hot Tip? Don’t Miss Out. The Caravan will move on leaving only a wind-battered broken stiletto behind!

Sold out at Lismore City Hall on Friday, but tickets still available for the Saturday show at the Byron Theatre at the Community Centre. Show starts at 8pm.

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