Monday 14 March 2022

THE DESTROYER - Cabaret Review

WHAT: The Destroyer

WHEN: 10 - 13 March 2022

WHERE: Arts Projects Australia Gallery

WRITTEN BY: Jackie Smith

DIRECTED BY: Moira Finucane

COMPOSED BY: Rachel Lewindon

PERFORMED BY: Maude Davey, Piera Dennerstein, Jazida, Caroline Lee, and Raina Peterson

Maude Davey - image by Sarah Walker

You know Melbourne is back in business when Finucane and Smith bring their craft, talent, and ensemble back to the live stage. On 10 March 2022 Melbourne was back and we know that because The Destroyer hit the 'stage' at Arts Project Australia Gallery.

Finucane and Smith worked hard during the endless lockdowns to keep their version of theatre alive. As each attempt to stage a show was interrupted, Jackie Smith kept writing and Moira Finucane kept performing. Whilst Finucane was presenting bathtub editions of The Rapture, Smith dug deep into her psyche - our psyche - and created three new monologues which form the backbone of this edition of a new cabaret selection.

The show begins with the unparalleled Maude Davey performing 'The Destroyer Iconic'. Riffing off our mythological mothers of monsters - Eve, Echidna, and Pandora - Smith has Davey constantly apologising for biting the apple and opening the box. 

As all the times I have said I am sorry for things I don't even know I did wrong echo through my head, Davey teases us. Should she play it safe? Should Eve bite the apple? Should Pandora go home and watch TV where it is safe, or open the mystery box and see what might spew out to contaminate the world? Will she be good or will she be brave? If you know any of the work of these amazing women, you know the answer to these questions already!

Underlying the elegant feminism of her gold gown sits the primal beating drums of Rachel Lewindon's composition and each iteration of "I'm sorry" arouses an outburst of tribal, frenetic dancing by Davey. Because this is what Finucane and Smith do. 

They know that angels play with demons and God and Lucifer are the two sides of the one coin. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot have the saint without the sinner. You cannot have beauty without ugly. You cannot have polite without profane. This is the great truth of humanity. We are all, we are everything, we are everyone.

Not all cabaret is thematic, but for The Destroyer Finucane and Lewindon have worked to create a journey from the primal to the prim across the evening. If I have one criticism is that I just wanted more.

Moving us from creation into human evolution Raina Peterson brings their beautiful and unique combination of classical Indian dance styles to the stage. They flick and slither and stalk the stage, jungle sounds alerting them to the dance and destruction of Davey just visible from the corner of our eyes.

Moving into the religious age, Jazida performs 'St Uncumber'. In this piece Smith combines the stories of Irish St Brigid, Swedish St Bridget, and the mythical St Uncumber. All, arguably, where married against their will, and all found escape through their faith in god. 

Casting the ultra glamorous and sexy burlesque dancer Jazida within the stories of these impoverished saints has the power of Brecht's dialectics and echoes the presence of both the sinner and the saint. Having said that, Finucane and Smith are all about non-binary and their inclusion of these different states of being is an act of inclusion, not exclusion. It is an act of love for the whole human. 

When Jazida brings out the bearded fan for a hint of a fan dance as she plays out her crucifixion, Finucane brings it all together by asking us to consider is this Jesus or St Uncumber? Are they the same? Again, my observation is I would have loved more fan dance but it is worth noting this cabaret is work still in development because of COVID disruptions.

The angelic voice of incomparable soprano Piera Dennerstein rises and fills the room, accompanied by the ensemble chorus as they gather at the base of the cross as it is lowered. Having created delicious ambiguity Finucane has Caroline Lee emerge to tell us story of 'The Good Daughter', a friend of Jesus.

Completing the circle of this evening of cabaret, Martha (sister of Mary and Lazarus), complains about her lot. Martha chose home and TV rather than the mystery box - apart from 2 wild, wild weeks which will titillate and thrill every prudish bone in your body! 

Her sister, however, bit the apple and as Jesus tells us in Luke 10:41-42, "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." It begs the question - do the rewards really go to the meek and obedient? Did Eve really make a mistake in biting the apple? Is knowledge and experience ever anything to apologise for? Lee radiates as Martha and the gin soaked evening ended with an orgiastic eruption of dance from cast and audience alike - as it always does with Finucane and Smith. 

The Destoyer is still a work in progress but it is the best kind of unfinished. All I wanted was more. More sound design, more dance, more opera - more, more, more, more, more! I can't wait to see how this project grows and develops. How powerful it shall be.

4 Stars

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