If you’re already a fan of the work of Finucane and Smith, you won’t need to read this review. From the glowing atmosphere I felt in the room at their most recent show, The Rapture, it’s clear that the company has a dedicated, devoted audience, and if you’re part of that audience, chances are you’ve already booked your ticket. For the rest of us, the uninitiated, the work is likely to be divisive. But perhaps you’ll become one of the newest devotees.
If it sounds a bit like a cult, that’s because it is. A fabulous, overflowing, disturbing, uncanny cult. If the work’s title doesn’t set the religious tone clearly enough, the transformed fortyfivedownstairs theatre immediately sets the tone. Replete with golden chandeliers and a cruciform catwalk, this is a church. And our high priestess is Moira Finucane, who tells us directly from the outset of the work – both through the lavish scenography and through her text – that she is here with us to pour forth a new scripture.
Finucane’s cabaret background is evident in the work, which comprises a series of disparate moments or episodes held together by the theme, rather than foregrounding a literal narrative. But the sequence of the episodes is far from random – there is the sense here of the live performance as holy text, with its own internal logic, sometimes inscrutable but slithering through everything we see.
Although I didn’t personally experience the rapture or the spiritual overflow of this work, it was clear that plenty did, and the appeal of surrendering oneself to such a work – and to such a commanding presence as Moira Finucane – is clear. As a society, we’re growing weary of organised religion – here in Australia, “no religion” was the most common religious choice in the 2016 census. And though this move towards a truly secular society has many benefits, there are also experiences of shared purpose, spirituality and connection that can be lost along the way. Sensing this potential void, Finucane steps in and begins the work – however camp and self-aware – of making a new gospel. And she takes the opportunity to tackle some interesting questions around consumer consciousness and environmentalism, cleverly peppered through the lavish imagery of her sermons. And what a figure to lead this new church. Finucane feels completely uninhibited, letting the power of her words and her purpose transform her body in each moment of her performance.
The language of the work was dense. It felt as though it was designed more for its rhythms and its sonorousness than for any of its literal meanings. This will entrance some audiences whilst alienating others. I wavered between these two states, which seems to be as much a comment on my own tastes as on the work itself.
This show won’t be for everyone – and that’s a good thing. Theatre is people sharing space and air and words and experiences. If you like the sound of the experiences I’ve described here, then book your ticket – you may be the latest member of Finucane and Smith’s ever-growing flock.
Writer and Performer: Moira Finucane
The Choir: Mama Alto, Clare St Clare, Shirley Cattunar & Miss Chief on the keys
Directors: Moira Finucane with Jackie Smith
Dramaturgy: Nicholas Dorward
Composers: Darrin Verhagen & Ben Keene
Visual Artists: sculptors William Eicholtz & Catherine Lane & the artists of Arts Project Australia
Couturiers: Gun Shy, Anastasia La Fey, Keon Couture
Lighting Design: Simon Hardy
29 June - 16 July 2017