The crucifix stage is a raised catwalk illuminated with bare light bulbs. Two mysterious shrouded women sing while the audience take their places at small cabaret tables.
There’s haze. A hell of a lot of hazy stage mist is being pumped from an industrial machine. Something perfumes the air and evokes the smell of church incense. Anticipation mounts as drinks are ordered and winter coats are shed and arranged on the backs of chairs.
The woman sitting next to us leans forward with a with a wicked grin and whispers, ‘Mind the tomato sauce‘. On the catwalk directly in front of us, there’s two litres of the stuff lying innocently on its side, alongside a glistening ceramic pineapple and a twisted black shawl.
We grin conspiratorially for Moira Finucane is infamous for her antics with liquid food stuffs. Not that long ago she was letting loose with litres of milk. The audience in the front rows had to lurk under industrial plastic until she’d sprayed the whole damn lot over the stage, herself and the plastic covered audience members.
The lights dim. The pianist, Miss Chief, accompanies the unearthly choir of: Mama Alto, Clare St Clare and Shirley Cattunar.
Suddenly Finucane is amongst us. With long tapering finger sticks and a magnificent crown which accentuates her height. From where I’m sitting she appears to be about seven feet tall and strongly resembles Eurpides’ tragic enchantress, Medea. The three singers – in their elegant Grecian tunics – morph into the Greek Chorus so familiar to Euripides’ tragedies.
Finucane’s costumes are gorgeous and fantastical. Rapture has been costumed and bejeweled by avant garde designers such as Kate Durham, Keon Couture, Gun Shy and Anastasia La Fey. But even when buck naked, Finucane is imposing. As she stated in a recent interview in The AGE Spectrum (June 2017), ‘When you see me naked on stage it’s about power; its’s about humanity … and sometimes I’m going to look like a monster.’
What occurs onstage switches from drama, to melodrama and onto to comedy in quick succession. Finucane’s voice is a magnificent instrument that can go from a deep throaty pitch to male baritone and quickly back to a girly giggle.
Finucane is a brilliant story teller and her stories draw on mystical events, erotica and some of the grimmer fairy tales. She has ability to pull you into her gothic world, and once there you’re susceptible to whatever she feels like laying on you. As the publicity flyer puts it Rapture is, ‘a party on the edge of the abyss’. Yes please.
Nothing Finucane does or says is without meaning. She’s a passionate woman and her professional background in environmental science and human rights permeates and fuels her performances. At a time when many have turned their faces away from the global refugee situation, Finucane tackles the issue head on – she’s a woman who actually does give a damn.
Her work is frequently described as transgressive which suggests that she operates outside the perimeters of conventional theatre. Finucane tackles political issues such as gender violence and environmental sustainability, and she does so forcefully utilizing bait and switch – so we lurch from an impassioned hard-hitting piece on refugees to brilliant social satire.
Back to the two litres of tomato sauce. The sauce had its moment when it was smeared all over Finucane’s naked body and squirted onto the black stage flooring. This happened during a dramatic fable about gender violence, murder and the mistreatment of women. But Finucane then effortlessly segued into a clever satire that made us laugh.
What else can I say? Superlatives are not enough. It really is ‘a party on the edge of the abyss’. Catch it if you can.
The Rapture is at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne until 16 July 2017, before touring China and Germany.
Photograph above: detail from 1898 poster by Alfrons Mucha: Sarah Bernhardt as Medea.