Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finucane & Smith's Triple Bill of Wild Delight!

You've got one weekend left to catch Moira Finucane & Jackie Smith's Triple Bill of Wild Delight! at Carlton's La Mama Theatre, and you'd be a fool to miss it. Three shows in one night might seem like a hard slog to anyone who's not a hardened festival-goer, but the energy generated by these three excellent productions will keep you awake and alert all evening.

The first cab off the rank is The Feast of Argentina Gina Catalina, a one-woman show written and performed by Finucane and directed by Smith, and ably presented with the invaluable support of a small army of waiters, who serve up delicious snacks between each chapter of the show.

This cornucopia of fanciful imaginings featuring pirates, killer whales, opera and blood oranges, is a series of dramatic monologues performed by an immaculately costumed Finucane in character as the impossible Argentina. Between each set the audience dine on chorizo and grilled corn, white wine, mussels, cured meats, chocolate cake, ice cream and more; each course referencing Finucane's text, and everything delicious.

Concerning the text itself, while one or two of the shorter pieces (which lack the impact and verbal dexterity of the larger, more epic chapters) could perhaps have been cut to reduce the running time without impacting on the overall structure of the play, overall this was an excellent production; an imaginative and spell-binding visit to the atmospheric, gothic and garish world of Finucane & Smith. I can't wait to go back.

The second show on the bill is The Candy Butchers' excellent anti-circus production, Tooth & Nail, created and performed by Azaria Universe and Jess Love, with a guest appearance by Derek Ives.

If you find it difficult to imagine a circus show in the constrictive confines of La Mama, that's all the more reason to see this show. Universe and Love make brilliant use of the venue's restrictive space in a production which takes the traditional tropes of circus arts and turns them inside out. Instead of masking the grueling effort it takes to make an act look poised and effortless, The Candy Butchers highlight the performers' gasps and grunts; instead of the glamorous showgirl, we get nudity, ripped stockings and deliberately ill-timed entrances. Deftly and brilliantly performed - the skipping routine is just one of many highlights - Tooth & Nail is solidly and hilariously entertaining.

The third and final show on the bill is Salon de Danse - Deluge - yes, dance at La Mama! Again, before seeing the show, my mind boggled at how this concept would work in Melbourne's smallest theatre, but work it does, and beautifully.

As with both previous shows on the night, Salon de Danse - Deluge makes magnificent use of the space on offer, especially the recently expanded courtyard, which plays host to a number of acts both before the show and during interval. Highlights include the opening parade of dancers led by Maude Davey, in which the audience is urged to target the performers with previously supplied water pistols; a tender piece performed on the courtyard stage by the remarkably lanky yet physically precise Brian Lucas, as he dances half hidden beneath a billowing sea of red cloth; a passionate, sensual and surreal tango performed by Paul Cordeiro and an office chair; Umi Umiumare's grotesque presentation in the second act, in which a faceless woman dances alone in a sinister forest; and Moira Finucane re-appearing in an incredibly tense and emotionally charged work involving a pie and an AC/DC song.

Fanciful, fantastic, imaginative and startling, this triple bill of visually lush and emotionally charged works is an absolute triumph, and is very highly recommended.

At La Mama Theatre until March 28. Book online or call (03) 9347 6142.

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