Review: Meow Meow ~ theatre notes

Monday, October 22, 2007

Review: Meow Meow

Melbourne Festival #7

Meow Meow: Beyond Beyond Glamour: The Remix. Meow Meow with Paul Grabowsky on piano. The Famous Spiegeltent.

“What does a heart sound like when it breaks?” Meow Meow, disheveled kamikaze chanteuse, tired, bored and heartbroken, wants to know. One audience member suggests “crash”. Another says “horrible”. Several others deny having had their hearts broken at all.

“Mine,” says Meow Meow, “sounds like this”. She launches into a series of vocal acrobatics that sound like a cross between an animal being slaughtered and an orgasm.

Aside from its startling demonstration of the flexibility and power of that extraordinary voice, it’s a moment when the toxic fragrance that winds through Beyond Beyond Glamour rises pungently to the surface. Meow Meow’s anarchic seduction is all about sex and death.

I can’t think of anywhere better to see her than the Famous Spiegeltent. If it weren’t for the lack of clouds of cigarette smoke, you’d swear you were back in the Weimar Republic.

Like another Spiegeltent favourite, Camille O’Sullivan, or the brilliant Paul Capsis, Meow Meow takes the art of cabaret and splits it open, exposing the disillusioned, yearning heart that beats under the sequins.

She’s a comedian of extraordinary nerve: her act is continually on the verge of collapse, catching itself up at the last possible moment.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an audience so tyrannised. From the moment she appears in incognito diva uniform of big coat and sunglasses, several beats after her introduction by pianist Paul Grabowsky, she is the model of the monstrous narcissist.

In a cruelly hilarious parody of the femme fatale, Meow Meow dominates the room with her supposed frailty. She snappishly commands a series of hapless men to carry her suitcase, to lug her to the stage, to help her off with most of her clothes.

She uses them as props, even as bras; she sits on them and demands that they look at her adoringly. Sheepishly, they oblige. They also take full advantage of her invitation to touch her.

Complaining that “the management” has forced her to perform even though her heart is broken, Meow Meow teasingly sings a series of cabaret classics – in French, Italian, German, Polish and Chinese. If she weren’t so funny, you’d be wild with frustration: she never finishes any of them.

The show is really a lead-up to the final number – “a standard cabaret number, darlings, you all know it” – Brecht and Weill’s Surabaya Johnny.

Here Meow Meow stops the tease. Her performance of this well-worn classic – tender, aching, savagely disillusioned - is nothing less than revelatory. And yes, you really are there, in Berlin in 1920. Only it’s Melbourne 2007.

This review was published in today's Australian.

You can listen to Meow Meow's version of Surabaya Johnny here.


On Stage And Walls said...

I'll ask Tikki "What does a heart sound like when it breaks?” tonight and I bet I get different answer.

Anonymous said...

I can never look at cabaret the same way after that show.

A stunning dissection and celebration of the art.

My heart breaking is the sound of a two rusty tap pipes. Bleeding as they tear against each other unable to turn.

Or something like that darlings.

On Stage And Walls said...

Sorry, I'll ask KIKI. Sounds like Meow Meow is still on good form.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone do the five minute dance/interview thingy with Miss Meow over the weekend?

Oh, and Noam, when are you gonna start your own blog. I'd stalk ya.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement Chris. I've thought about it - but I spend so much time on line as it is and I'm trying to finish a first draft. It's in the 'maybe later' draw.

I did go to the dance marathon. When I was there the atmos was thick but the dancing thin on the ground. I was mildly disappointed, but then I didn't stay long as my interview answers[a series of questions on paper] upset my partner and I left to repair fences....ce la vie.

Did anone else get to cut the rug?