The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez is written by Jackie Smith and directed by Moira Finucane. It is a superbly spirited show performed with relentless gutso by the exceptionally talented Caroline Lee along with her gorgeous songbird sidekick, Clare St Clare.
The show is a stunning portrayal of a fabulous life lead by the one and only Lola Montez. Eliza Gilbert adopted the persona of Spanish dancer Lola Montez after seeing her perform the ‘Spider dance’. Montez was known to be more than just a simple showgirl as we know her; she was a lewd and morally corrupt showgirl on the Ballarat goldfields. She was an international traveller who socialised with and courted many important political figures. She had a reputable significant involvement in the Royal Courts of Europe. She was not just a performer and dancer, but a political reformist and pioneer feminist radical, too.
The acclaimed duo Finucane and Smith have successfully brought to life a truly inspirational portrayal of Montez. Who else but our very own ‘cabaret provocateur’ could tease out the finite directorial details of this intriguing yet fascinating real life character. Smith has provided a beautifully lyrical play, written in first person as if spoken from the grave. Lee, who happens to be a descendant of Montez, gives us an exquisite rendition performing directly to the audience with flair and poise. It has to be more than coincidence and maybe more serendipitous, that an ancestral relative such as Lee can play such a complex character in such a flawless manner.
The stage is bathed in dim red lighting and draped with sheer gossamer. A wooden trunk is propped in the middle of the open stage. Lee flaunts her sensuality and mindful acrobatics over the solid prop in such a mindblowing finale that the audience is left gobsmacked. Clare St Clare punctuates Lee ‘s performance with songs that only a reputable chanteuse as herself could do. She is a bedazzling roaming spectacle and applauded thus.
I herald Smith for writing an astounding interpretation of the Lola Montez story. The performance entertains us with the historical facts and stories, and a re-interpretation of the Lola Montez myth. I can now see Lola Montez as an inspiring torch-bearer who was an incredibly strong and courageous individual.
Photo credit: Aldona Kmiec 2017