Glory Box: glorious burlesque

cast for glory box by finucane and smith

I love Meow Meow. She’s an awesome performer, fearlessly shattering the performance walls; stylish with a great voice, charismatic and opinionated, a kind of singing stand-up comedian with her ability to mix laughs and social commentary. She was guest last night at Glory Box, the latest production of Finucane and Smith, and the two-hour show was every bit as entertaining and provoking as last year’s Burlesque Hour.

Some of the pieces are repeats, all the better for another viewing: Salome’s unveiling, the balloon-bursting Queen of Hearts, the concluding Get Wet for Art that requires the front rows to shelter under brollies. There’s clever illusion — where does the naked woman hide that hanky? — and stunning trapeze and hoola hoop action; there are spraying apple pieces in keeping with the Eden/sin/Pandora theme, smooches, cross-dressing, the shattering of sexual identity preconceptions … and the thing that struck me at that other performance and again here, the simple joy of the female form, sans airbrushing, surgery and other unrealistic expectations. Writer Christos Tsiolkas contributes the script for a be-suited duet, ‘I Have a Confession’, a slap in the face of homophobia. And as before, the performers get out and about amidst the audience, packed into the basement level of the very cool fortyfivedownstairs.

Meow Meow’s ‘Down Dolly Down’ set encapsulates the political context perfectly, and her ‘Be Careful’/All the Girls with piano accompaniment is sheer class. That she pulls off such impact while, for example, rotating slowly on a lazy susan or lit by her own torch is all the more reason for applause.

Glory Box is a glorious romp indeed, with Jimi Hendrix, Portishead, Prince, Salt-N-Pepa on the playlist, and a message in the medium that is revealing in more ways than one.


Brigitte Handley & Wretched Villains

I’m happy to report that the energy required to drag my sanguine carcass down to the inaugural Dead of Winter festival at the Jubilee Hotel was repaid in spades by Brigitte Handley’s Dark Shadows, recently (as in, two days!) returned from touring in Europe and the US, and Brisbane’s Wretched Villains.

Handley’s trio of herself on vox and electric guitar, with Carly Chalker on bass and Nerida Wu on drums, have become more confident and more polished since I last saw them a couple of years ago on a boat trip down the Brisbane River. Their new material is sensational rock ‘n’ roll, delivered with aplomb. Each member engages with the audience; Wu is a dynamo. The band stretches Handley’s deep passion for classic 50s and 60s rock all the way to thrash, with some very cool arrangements showing the band maturing and experimenting. There was no sign of jet lag as they drew an appreciative crowd in the Jube’s beer garden. The Dark Shadows journey north from their hometown of Sydney again in August.

Earlier, the Villains road tested some new material ahead of their CD launch on July 31 at the Globe, but were beset by a woeful mix and a set cut short due to the festival running behind time (depriving us of the delightful Lisa Lamb’s fireshow, to boot! Boo!). And while I’m whining, how hard is it to provide bands with a decent light rig these days?

Anyway, the new songs showed great promise, with the keys and violin getting some space to strut their stuff.

I know I should’ve stayed for the Kidney Thieves who always put on a great show — they must be delighted at the news of Faith No More getting back together, given there’s some pretty clear homage going on there! — but I’d had enough of the stench of cigarettes wafting over from the smokers’ cage and my ears were ringing after the Dark Shadows’ big finish. The festival did seem pretty successful if the number of punters was any indication, packing upstairs and down, and what a fine mix they were, too: the goths, the punks, the normals, the normals in zombie attire, the rockers, the metalheads, all getting along just fine, thanks very much.

I interviewed Brigitte when she released her Identity EP in 2006. She talks about her band, her love of horror movies and her classic guitar. Read it here.