Attending this latest theatrical spectacle from Finucane & Smith is not so much “going to see a show” as entering a netherworld of darkly erotic, tenderly exotic fantasy. Prepare to have your heart squeezed and your mind blown.
Reaching far beyond vaudeville or variety, The Birds gobbles up theatrical genres and spits them out in a fabulous, glittering spray of cabaret, circus and wonderfully bawdy burlesque.
It’s a show of contrasts and contradictions, the incredibly poignant and touching held quivering against the dark and macabre, the soaring notes of early 20th-century Parisian divas diving into the hot, dirty beats of 21st-century clubland.
It’s a celebration of all things physical, from the gorgeous Holly Durant’s bootylicious shimmying to the magical fingers of Miss Chief on piano. Perhaps the most physically extraordinary is Rockie Stone, who begins with a delicate and delightful interpretation of “The Birdie Song” (who knew it could sound so pretty, so sweet?) that morphs into an intensely moving and artistic display of physical form on the trapeze, a piece so subtly imbued with emotion it is reminiscent of Pina Bausch.
There are sultry songs from Clare St Clare and some subversively sexy hula hooping, but the pinnacle of the show is the collaboration between Mama Alto (whose renditions of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” and Nina Simone’s “Wild is the Wind” are so piercingly beautiful that they transcend the original and leave your eyes brimming, your heart breaking) and the inimitable Moira Finucane herself. The divine, pure notes of Mama Alto and the dark throbbing rhythm of Finucane’s verse vibrate together and produce something far beyond the sum of their two parts.
This is cutting-edge burlesque for a 21st-century audience; there’s no invitation to gaze longingly at a depersonalised female form. Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith have instead created a show where people unashamedly inhabit their bodies and celebrate them in their own unique ways, a show that challenges outdated notions of gender binaries and woman-as-object.
It’s risque, it’s poignant, it’s dark, it’s provocative; it reminds us what it is to be human and it reminds us that whatever we are, we’re beautiful (as long as our café lattes aren’t too hot). Seriously. Don’t miss it.
The Birds is showing at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre again tonight and tomorrow night as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.