Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gothic Realism: Moira Finucane talks about the power of the dark side

Moira Finucane credits a Catholic upbringing for her fascination with the macabre. "The lives of the saints are so much about pain and suffering, redemption and hope and glory," she laughs wickedly. "Being a very imaginative child, I guess I was always really fascinated by the intense morality of religion. The guilt and the blood, they’re very strong images."

Finucane, described by The Age as "less an actor and more a force of nature" is a Melbourne-based performance artist whose intense and provocative stage presence has won national acclaim. In her latest production Gotharama, directed by long-term collaborator Jackie Smith (herself the winner of the 2001 Patrick White Playwright Award), Finucane fuses Catholic imagery with the transcendent possibilities of fairytales to create a world simultaneously nightmarish and beautiful. Despite its macabre qualities, she hopes it is a world the audience will willing enter.

"All of my work at its bedrock is about gender, violence, power and desire, but it’s kind of filtered through a whole lot of populist artforms that I’ve always loved: vaudeville, burlesque, silent movies, music hall." Finucane explains. "I love those artforms, and the way they privilege the audience experience. I guess the audience is kind of central to Jackie’s and my work together. We like to create intimate theatrical spectacles that the audience can inhabit. It’s not just about them sitting there in the dark."

As a performer, Moira Finucane is no stranger to the dark side. 2001’s Phantasmagoria saw her present the story of a lone woman on a steam-train hurtling through the night, pursued by her thirty red-haired, yellowed-eyed relatives, while for Chunky Move’s Arcade that same year she and Jackie Smith devised The Dress Shop, a tale of Victorian seamstresses whose stitches gave birth to a monster made of black lace.

Such macabre themes may not to be to everybody’s tastes, but Finucane clearly revels in them. "I guess why I find that kind of stuff fascinating is because it deals with very deep-seated fears, with cultural archetypes as well as really fundamental morality," she says. "Horror is often very misogynistic but it can also be a lot of fun, you know?"

The seasoned performer is looking forward to the opportunity Gotharama offers to present her more text-based works, which she has had few opportunities to explore in recent years save for in the intimate setting of the Word Is Out spoken word series. She is also enthusiastic about the production’s soundscape. "It’s the first time I’ve worked with a live musician, which is very exciting, and we’re using everything from classical music to hardcore industrial."

This cross-cultural fusion extends to the overall feel of the production. "We’ve got the exciting supernatural qualities of the bodice-ripper and the Victorian fascination with ectoplasm and mediums, though to a contemporary understanding of the gothic, things like Nosferatu, modern Japanese horror and magic realism. And there’ll be blood," Finucane promises. "A lot of blood."

Gotharama runs from July 6 – 24 at 45 Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne. Bookings on 9662 9966


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