Melbourne's hottest export – Glory Box – turns ten!

Melbourne's hottest export – Glory Box – turns ten!

CREATED ON // Wednesday, 06 August 2014 Author // Tim Hunter

Glory Box, that genre-busting, definition-defying uber-burlesque performance art showcase has been described as Melbourne's hottest export, and it's been going for ten years. Co-founder and performer Moira Finucane brings Tim Hunter up to speed with their Tenth Anniversary Season.

Still on the adrenaline rush of finishing a huge application that covers the next twelve months, Moira Finucane can’t quite believe that Glory Box, an alternative, confronting, inspiring and often hilarious performance showcase that is more than burlesque, they are the Wolves of Burlesque, is now ten years old.

“I seriously can’t,” Finucane says. “We premiered the show on the promise that one day we’d get close enough to an oily rag to smell it, and we were told by almost everybody, ‘It’ll never work and audiences aren’t ready for this, it’s too full-on, it’ll never reach more than an underground and alternative audience’. Ten years later, we’ve had 300,000 audience members, taken it to 15 different countries, we’ve won eight different theatre awards, and every year it keeps evolving and getting wilder. What a thrill.”

And all this has evolved from a small nightclub in southern China that Finucane and her partner, Jackie Smith, already seasoned and well-respected performers, visited back in 2004.

“We had just finished this massive tour of Europe, where we discovered our work was completely unique, and we were in southern China for a holiday, and we went to this amazing avant-garde night club. It was full of young people, there was a political poet-songwriter playing on a guitar, there was a snake dancer, people were talking about ideas, and everyone was really excited. We sat on a veranda drinking some sort of fire water and watched the rain pour down on these beautiful red lanterns swaying like jellyfish, and we thought, ‘we want to open a club like this, something underground and unforgettable and subversive and seductive where people can come and chat and drink and talk about ideas. And we want people to be as excited as they are in this club’.”

Watch a preview of Glory Box

So armed with some red paper lanterns, Finucane and Smith opened the Burlesque Hour (even though it was never an hour, or even what you think of as burlesque) in Melbourne, and sold out the opening night, and it hasn’t stopped since. 

“Melbourne has such a strong queer and underground history of performance, and to take the best of that and make it world-famous, and perform in Sao Paulo in Brazil in front of 10,000 people – it’s nuts!”

Of course, after ten years of performances and guests, there’s been more than a few memorable moments, but Finucane admits to a couple of favourites.

“One work that always makes me cry is Azaria Universe doing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ in 30cm white platform heels, no clothes and strings of pearls. It’s really silly and sexy and funny, but it’s also really moving, and when Azaria throws herself all over the stage to Bonnie Tyler’s epic schmaltzy music, you get swept away. It’s the Gone With The Wind of performance art.”

And while Glory Box has been growing and evolving, Finucane has been keeping pace with it and her own development. “I have become wilder,” she confirms. “I take way more risks than I did ten years ago. When you learn how to cook with spices, things are going to become pretty spicy. And I have learnt to cook with spices, and I am not afraid of experimenting.”

The other thrilling part of this tenth anniversary season is being the premiere show at the new permanent home of Circus Oz in Collingwood, the Melba Spiegeltent. Chance or design?

“It was eyes meeting across a crowded room. Circus Oz are an iconic company, we are an iconic Melbourne company, and when we found out they were moving to the artistic heart of Melbourne, Collingwood, and they wanted to set up the Spiegeltent there, we started chatting. All of a sudden it became really clear that the only show that could open that tent was the Glory Box. It was a match made in heaven. There is a magic in those tents that you just can’t buy.”

This season sees the original three Glory Box performers, Finucane, Yumi Umiumare and Azaria Universe, otherwise known as the Unholy Trinity of Fatale Feministas, along with many guests from the past decade.

“It’s a combination of greatest hits parade with wild new works. We are taking requests, and they are pouring in. We’re bringing some fantastic new work. Maude Davey’s coming in, the lovely Saint Clare is completely new to the show in Australia and smoking hot. Sarah Ward, that disco bombshell, is joining us for one night only; and there’s more, more, more. Hula hoop queen Anna Lumb is back from Thailand. Yumi and Azaria have new works – Azaria’s new work is called Get It Off – and she does get it off, and it’s great. It’s a megamix of hot new work and all-time favourites from all over the world, and only for ten nights, so people should get in quick.”

The Glory Box Tenth Anniversary Season, August 14-24,  Circus Oz Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood.


Tim Hunter

Tim Hunter

Tim Hunter is a writer, filmmaker and cultural commentator who loves talking about TV, films, travelling, Doctor Who and Speedos. He’s also the Queer Editor for Time Out Melbourne.

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