Moira Finucane loves variety, vaudeville, cabaret and burlesque -“ but she also has no illusions that this is, in fact, 2004.

Feathers and stockings do not a memorable show make, beautiful though they are. What’s memorable is that grit, she said, by phone from Melbourne, about her latest show The Burlesque Hour.

Anyone who has seen Finucane in action, whether through appearances at Club Bent, or solo shows at Mardi Gras festivals, will know what she means by grit. One of her costumes for the show, for example, is a red velvet bikini, which is sexy enough except it’s covered in three-inch spikes.

Expect gender illusion, erotic food play and a bizarre sense of humour. Her work is about gender, power, violence and desire, but she also has a political mission to reach as broad an audience as possible.

People can come to the work from a very accessible place and know that the joke is with them rather than on them. And Jackie [Smith] and I -“ my director and collaborator of the last 10 years -“ we have a little motto, which is to cherish and to challenge. That’s very much our kind of pact with our audiences.

This time around, Finucane has joined forces with circus performance artist Azaria Universe and Butoh dancer/shock cabaret artiste Yumi Umiumare to create a show featuring (among other things) an opium den set, fortune-telling fish, a colouring-in competition and an expos?n Hello Kitty.

If the show sounds a little reminiscent of Duckie, the UK cabaret act that hit the Studio last year, then don’t be surprised. Finucane performed with the group as early as 1996, brushing off any suggestion of a new wave of 21st century burlesque.

Those art forms have been present and thriving in a whole lot of different ways, she said. I think what’s happening now is more and more people are engaging with them -¦

When you look back at Club Bent, it was cabaret, burlesque, variety, vaudeville, but whether the performers thought of it that way is another issue altogether.

The show also features a very 20th century icon of the music hall: the delectable, but not necessarily edgy, Ms Toni Lamond.

Wherever The Burlesque Hour travels, it has a special local guest artiste, Finucane explained. Toni is a living breathing slice of Australia’s vaudeville history and she’s still going strong, and she’s still really awesome.

She’s also very broadminded as well, and that shows in her work and it shows in her life -¦ But I was a bit worried because the show’s a bit racy, it has to be said -“ and we’re proud of that.

I said at the end of our conversation, -˜Toni, I just want to be clear that you’re clear on the content of the show.’ And she said, -˜Oh, darling! They were nude at the Tivoli!’ she said.

The Burlesque Hour is showing until 13 November at the Opera House Studio. Phone 9250 7777.

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