Tuesday 20 February 2024

House of the Heart review

It’s inside the Dragon Gallery of the Chinese Museum where the heads of three processional Chinese Dragons that have been used during city parades over the last century reside. Symbolic of strength and generosity, and as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese New Year, it is fitting that Finucane & Smith should also have their cabaret House of the Heart staged here.

The evening is full of heartwarming and heart-wrenching storytelling and musical performances from artistes including First Nations jazz blues legend Lois Olney. Accompanied by guitarist Dave Johnson, Olney delivers loving tributes to her deceased family members and recounts anecdotes with Finucane about their lifelong friendship beginning when they were just twelve. Home comes in many ways and can easily change, but as Finucane tells us at the beginning of the show, it's heart and love that keeps us connected.

There is a strong Chinese presence with singer Sophie Koh performing stirring songs in English and Mandarin, and star-in-the-making Zitao Dang, who has a voice that absolutely needs to be heard by more people. While some of these songs may be in a language I don't understand, the emotion emanating from the singers speak volumes on what they are saying. Cellist Xiao Xiao is on hand to provide outstanding musical accompaniment, including her first ever composition, as does Rachel Lewindon on the keyboard and the theremin, a fascinating instrument that is controlled without physical contact, and Koh on the guzhen, a Chinese plucked instrument.

Directors Finucane and Jackie Smith have a masterly vision in bringing these artists from different personal and professional backgrounds together, and allow them to share the stage in a beautiful way. Dance storyteller Paul Cordeiro describes a touching act about his Singaporean family but is joined by others on stage to maximise the impact. This is done throughout House of the Heart, and it's great to see all performers in the limelight as well as in roles that support and help each other. Lewindon's musical direction and Emily Mangan's sounds further aid in painting vivid pictures for the stories being told, including Finucane's Antarctic penguin tale.

Other acts include Raksha Parsnani's remarkable belly dancing routine that alludes to her relocating to Australia from Mumbai six years ago to follow her belly dancing dream, and Kate Foster's amazing rendition of Peter Allen's 1970 song "Tenterfield Saddler", that recounts the moving story of the singer's life.

With a number of guest artists popping in throughout its season, House of the Heart wears its heart on its sleeve and extends an invitation to the audience to do the same. Love is what is going to keep us together and love can accomplish many wonderful things, like creating House of the Heart.

Click here to read our interview with Moira Finucane and Sophie Koh. 




Venue: The Chinese Museum, 22 Cohen Place, Melbourne

Season: until 10 March | Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5:30pm
Duration: 120 minutes

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

Main image credit: Jodie Hutchinson
Secondary image credit: Abhijit Pal

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