Saturday 17 February 2024

Heart to heart with Moira Finucane and Sophie Koh

Finucane & Smith are back and painting the town red with a return season of House of the Heart, a cabaret exploring the themes of home, belonging, journey and heart through song, opera, storytelling and dance. With a line up of 13 extraordinary artists from varied cultural backgrounds, ages and life experiences, it's fair to say that co-director, performer and recently declared a Melbourne Fringe Living Legend, Moira Finucane is more than a little excited to be presenting this show in Melbourne again,

One of the many impressive elements of a Finucane & Smith show is the spread of talent they bring to the stage. While there's certainly challenges in getting so many performers together, when you've had a long and varied career as Finucane, having performed around the world and in countries such as Chile, China and Colombia, it certainly becomes easier. "We find our performers through travelling, putting on shows, directing, talking, touring, listening to lesser heard voices, taking risks ... so many risks!" she tells me. "People have told me throughout my art making career (even when I worked for free in nightclubs!) "Oh Moira, that will never work!" but I listen and I am curious, I look and I marvel, I am always marveling at people's diversity, and capacity to make beautiful art."

"The artists of House of the Heart are artists I have know for years, such as Ngarluma jazz blues legend Lois Olney who was my best friend when I was a teenager, right through to the newcomers of singer/songwriter Zitao Deng and the stunning cellist Xiao Xiao who I worked with recently when I was an artist in residence at Monash University. Paul Cordeiro guest starred in The Burlesque Hour at the Sydney Opera House in 2005 and we have worked with him ever since as a dancer and singer. He's an artist that I think of as joy embodied. Rachel Lewindon began her work with us by composing a response to my Art vs Extinction work in Antarctica, by creating an EPIC piano piece the same day I sent her a field recording of penguins and avalanches. And of course there's the luminous and extraordinary Sophie Koh, who has composed and sung, and broken and mended hearts with us around the country and the world."

"Moira and I first met four years ago, when I auditioned to be the lead artist of a new Sydney Festival show and Moira was the director," Koh recalls. "I had never worn high heels, delivered a narrative, wore sequins or put on fake eyelashes in my life, until I met Moira. She has created creative spaces for me to be challenged and succeed. I think that's a great relationship to come back for more."

The voices of the artistes in House of the Heart are from so many places, journeys, cultures, art forms, spiritualities, identities and experiences. Each artist brings their unique voice to the work," Finucane adds. "We are deeply committed to lifting lesser heard voices, and celebrating those who don't get celebrated enough on our stages and places of performance. It makes for wilder, richer, deeper, more surprising, and more unexpected art!" 

"My audience are also my greatest partners in this adventure. I never wanted to perform only for a coterie of friends and ex-lovers; I wanted to take my work to everyone, everywhere. To places and people that may have never met anyone like me, to people who would rather chew their own arm off or go to the dentist than see 'feminist theatre'," she laughs. "I want to meet with them in a place we have created, a wildly hospitable, entertaining, cherishing untamed and respectful place and converse about humanity, the future and beauty. My experience of taking this approach, everywhere in the world, has almost always surprised and delighted me. It's magic."

With her shows always seen as a mix of celebration and love with calls to leave this world in a better state than we entered it, it's no surprise that hope is what inspires Finucane. "Hope is one of the first things oppressors try to extinguish from people's lives and hearts, and they use horrible weapons to diminish hope: hatred, misogyny,  racism, poverty, war, violence... but hopeful people are powerful people. Hopeful communities are powerful communities. That's what makes Hope so dangerous for those who seek to oppress others. Hope is the weaponised human heart."

"The concept for House of the Heart came about when I was on the Tibetan plateau, working with Sophie and an amazing acrobatic troupe The Qinghai Acrobatic Troupe. We talked about heart and home, and what keeps us drawn to home, even when sometimes we are separated by distance, or time, or passing generations," Finucane says. "Last year our touring cabaret show, Dance Hall, went to 55 regional towns and centres Australia-wide and everywhere we went, we found ourselves talking about heart and home with towns folk, and local performers, farmers, artists, presenters and all sorts of people."

This sentiment is also echoed by Koh who sees House of the Heart as an opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate what it means to be Australian. "Being Australian means we don't just celebrate, but we elevate ALL voices," she explains. "Being Australian is being hyper diverse. House of the Heart jam-packs this elevation and celebration through song, laughter, dance, family and sharing. Australians need real human connection more than ever and this show provides that connection, shoulder to shoulder."


Venue: The Chinese Museum, 22 Cohen Place, Melbourne

Season: until 10 March | Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5:30pm
Duration: 60 minutes

Tickets: $88 Table Seating | $68 Full | $58 Concession
Bookings: The Chinese Museum

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