Jacqueline Furey, burlesque performer, Fatale at Wonderland Festival
What’s the fun of being super 'sexy' if you don’t use it to subvert people’s expectations and freak ‘em out occasionally?
The Brisbane burlesque scene has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few years, and one of the performers raising the art form’s profile is the bewitching beauty Jacqueline Furey. After pivoting from a promising career in law to centre stage of the country’s burlesque industry, Jacqueline has won the heart of legions of fans thanks to her graceful and glamorous performances. The fire-eating, whip-cracking and sword-swallowing performer has a host of talents at her disposal, and soon she’ll be putting them all on display on her first full-length show Fatale, which features on the Wonderland Festival program this year. Before she takes the stage, we caught up with Jacqueline to talk about her inspirations, her journey so far and what we can expect from her show.
To start, we’d love to find out more about your origin story! We heard that you stopped pursuing a career as a lawyer in favour of performance. When did burlesque first get its clutches on you?
I started studying law mostly just so I could say that I tried a conventional career path, but somehow I think I’ve always known my future would involve a better lit stage than a courtroom could provide. My mother is a dance teacher and I’ve been prancing around in stretch sequins for as long as I can remember, so whether it was by nature or by nurture, I just couldn’t tear myself away from that path for long. I think mum was quietly proud …
What is it about the art form that energises you and makes it so fulfilling as a creative outlet?
I never really feel fulfilled and that’s what drives me to keep creating and exploring different ways of presenting my art. I don’t think anyone who feels fulfilled would spend hours agonising over intricate costumes or putting swords down their throat. But what I do really love about it is the control I have offstage in creating all the aspects of my shows, from concept to costume, and I also love the freedom I have on stage to use and present my body however I see fit.
How long did it take to hit your stride and define the glamorous and erotic stage persona of Jacqueline Furey?
Finding ways to accentuate and celebrate femininity has always been exciting to me. In a society that deems women to be the weaker sex, I think that being hyper feminine for your own enjoyment can be an act of rebellion. I started moving toward including more of the shocking sideshow stuff in my acts because really – what’s the fun of being super ‘sexy’ if you don’t use it to subvert people’s expectations and freak ‘em out occasionally? Jacqueline Furey has always been a work in progress and always will be.
Your Wonderland Festival performance Fatale – your first full-length show – sounds amazing! Can you tell us what inspired the show and how it came to be?
Being a burlesque and variety performer I usually only spend five or so minutes on stage at a time, so really I just wanted more time in the spotlight. But the show is an homage to the film noir ‘Femme Fatale’ archetype and all the ways we can relate to and sympathise with this character, now more than ever.
You perform a few life-threatening acts in Fatale – fire eating, whip cracking and sword swallowing. How nervous should we be for you and your audience?
The audience is quite safe, I’m a very good aim with a bullwhip and I’ve never hurt anyone who is wasn’t paying me to do so. It’s mostly my own mortality that I’ll be testing – so far so good!
What’s something you’re yet to incorporate into a show but are keen to try?
Impalement knife throwing. Or singing. I’ve done a little of both in other people’s shows but never in my own shows. Both terrify me equally.
Beyond performing, you direct and produce shows, and also instruct others in the art of burlesque. What is it about these arenas that you find rewarding?
As corny as it sounds, I love giving others the space to be creative. The wonderful humans I work with never stop inspiring me to be better, so it’s more selfish than it sounds I suppose.
Are there any other shows at Wonderland that you’re eager to see?
Brisbane burlesque producers Bombshell Burlesque and Joel Devereux both have great shows on – Heatwave and Rumble (respectively) and they’re always excellent. The legendary Leah Shelton is also debuting a new show called Bitch on Heat that I’m dying to see!
Finally, what’s your idea of complete happiness?
The intensely comfortable moments just before falling asleep for a long nap under a heavy blanket.