Writer/ Performer: Meow Meow
Musical Director: Michael Roulston
Reviewer: Daniel Perks
When Meow Meow looks at her audience and selects a member to adorn her with flowers, cancan like a Barbie doll behind her or get down on all fours so she can sit down, they do it. No diva fits, simply a look and a command. How can you say no? How can you disappoint this incredible performer, who has seemingly gone through so much heartbreak only to end up stuck in a circus tent on a roundabout in Brighton? Her opening costume is hired, the lighting cues are all wrong and her carefully chosen selection of props is not available due to budget cuts. Broadway, this is not.
From her very first entrance, Meow Meow owns the room. Glitter and sequins aplenty, she stands on stage for the perfect amount of time to draw all eyes onto her without uttering a word. No roses though, the audience are obviously not thoughtful enough to throw them on stage in adoration. With a typically British ‘Make Do and Mend’ attitude combined with under-the-breath grumbling, she totters backstage to get her own flowers and kindly but firmly instructs the front row to toss them on stage upon her return. Careful Meow Meow, these roses have thorns.
So begins a show filled with setbacks and disappointments. Not for the audience, oh no – the lack of a rotating stage, trapeze or descending dress only serve to enhance the comedy in her performance. Half diva, half down to earth fringe act, Meow Meow walks the tightrope between over the top and tongue in cheek expertly. Not only that – here is a cabaret artist that can high kick like a Moulin Rouge girl, belt out a guttural note like Shirley Bassey and conjure up husky, throaty tones like Marlena Dietrich. All that in just one song while wearing two pairs of rouge knickers since her entourage forgot to provide her with an accompanying top. She also has mastery not only over a variety of styles (Berlin Kit Kat club, French chanson, avant-garde show-tune to name but a few) but over language too. French, Polish, even Chinese, this lady can entrance her audience regardless of their clearly inferior linguistic capabilities.
One would think that all of this is enough to entertain, astound and delight. But the reason that Meow Meow is such a tour de force is in her accessibility. After all of these exertions, she visibly sags, slumps and appears worn. A manikin takes her place centre stage in the spotlight, her resting on the step underneath and singing a heart-wrenching song about a woman on the verge of giving up. That is, until she deftly takes a couple of swigs from an audience drink, picks herself up and soldiers on again.
I have had the privilege of seeing renowned Australian cabaret performer Reuben Kaye create and host a sparkling new show at Café de Paris, London. Meow Meow could easily be Reuben’s more glamorous sister… and what a duo these two would be. Slick with a lick; sweet and spicy; heavenly and hellish.
Runs until May 17 2016| Image:Harmony Nicholas