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The American masthead
1040 Abroad

Meow Meow — Feline Intimate
London Wonderground 2014, South Bank Centre, London SE1
to June 8, 2014
Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell.

Meow Meow - Feline Intimate
Meow Meow — Feline Intimate. Photo: Jonathan Ellenor
Words escape me trying to encapsulate the wonder that is Meow Meow. [Regular Jarlath readers will know that is saying something! - ed.] 'Cabaret performer' isn't the half of it, 'burlesque artiste' merely refers to the garments, 'performance artist' is too po-faced. She is all of the above and creates more genuine theatrical magic within five minutes than you'll find in all of the West End on any one evening. She comfortably straddles high art and low-down like no other. She is the essence of Weimar cabaret, only with better jokes.

The key to her talent is a supreme confidence and a total control of her audience, but not in a pushy drag queen way - she is too smart for that. Her initial angle is a familiar one, that of an Artiste trying to excel but being constantly let down by cheap theaters (a tent next to the Festival Hall), and a bolshie stage crew. The attempts at lighting are hilarious. As a way out of this dilemma she improvises and creates grand theatrical moments with what crumbs she can find. Her genius is that she succeeds.

This is probably her best London show so far as she's not as hidebound by a concept as she was in The Little Matchstick Girl. The wonderful Spiegeltent is a boozy piece of Edinburgh Festival dropped on the South Bank and it has tons more atmosphere than the QEH.

The talented composer Lance Horne accompanies her on piano, together with a fantastic drummer, and both deserve Nobel Prizes for their playing, their arrangements and for generally keeping up.

Musically she is so good she could go legit and her rendition of Patty Griffin's 'Be Careful' didn't leave a dry eye in the tent, but she knows there are lots of other people who can sing. Nobody can disembowel 'Ne Me Quitte Pas' like her though, a construction (is the best word to use) aided by two men from the audience.

Like Pink Martini, her perfect collaborators, she's a musical magpie. We get everything from 'Un Ano de Amor' (you'll recall from Almodóvar) to Radiohead and you will be joining in on 'Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini' in Polish. Like her fellow Aussie, Dame Edna, she is the master of audience participation and as she puts it "you might not be moved but you'll be touched".

She manages to send up the narcissism of theatrical performers while at the same time deploying the same weapons. What makes her special though is that there is no cold irony here. She has heart and she is always totally connected to her material and to her audience. She ends with a coup de théâtre that can't be spoiled but you must spoil yourselves and go see her.



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