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Interview: Meow Meow

No, not that kind... We chat to the cabaret diva ahead of her latest show...


Well, hello Meow Meow. We KNOW you've been asked this before, but for any new fans out there, how did your name come about?
Just look at me; I'm a wildcat, clearly. And it's constantly rumoured that I have more than nine lives. I existed way before the dubious street drug… why they named it after me I couldn't tell you! And on that topic, I must say I too am addictive, but delicious and totally legal with no horrid after effects beyond eternal enlightenment. My voice is also rather feline - from the purr to the caterwaul. I'll leave the subject of occasional furballs out of this.

Purrfect… sorry. Tell us what we can expect from your latest show?
Sequins, schtick, sexiness, salvation and possibly the splits. There will be gorgeous torch songs, some mayhem and divine, muscular musicians to look at. This is fun-hour in the tent of mirrors!

You’ve been known to crowd surf during performances. How do you know if a crowd is going to carry you?
I don't. But I have great faith in humanity, and particularly when I scream at people in German they just seem to do things for me...

Do you prefer theatre as a medium to, say, television? Is TV something you'd like to do?
I'd love to do television, and I do every now and then. And films. [Suddenly, dramatically] Yes Pedro Almodovar. I am ready for my Spanish language close-up. You may resume the courtship. Talk to my manager

*Glares bemused but ultimately captivated*
Theatre's the thing though, isn't it? Transient, transgressive, full of possibility. I like to touch my fans, in all senses. Feline Intimate is certainly up close and personal in that jewel box venue.

You’ve got a pretty broad musical repertoire ranging from classics to modern. What's your favourite song to perform and why?
If I was feeling particularly egalitarian I would say they are all my children and one mustn't have favourites. Brecht/Weill's Surabaya Johnny and Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas I've sung all my life and they shift and twist constantly in resonance. Incredible songs with ever new dramatic crevices to explore. Yes, I just said "dramatic crevice", so sue me. Patty Griffin's Be Careful is pretty much all I want to say to the world; a perfect hymn to humanity by a genius songwriter. And right now I'm loving exploring a song I’ve written with Pink Martini's Thomas M Lauderdale called Hotel Amour, which we're mid-recording and will be on our new album. It has deep personal resonance for me and was excruciating and joyful and cathartic to write.

You’re performing in the UK again at London Wonderground on the Southbank and at Latitude Festival. What’s the difference performing at a permanent venue vs a festival?
They're all an adventure. It's the business of show! One night you're in Festival Hall, the next you're in a caravan in the mud. It's all about the audience. As long as I have a followspot and an audience, I'm on! Sarah Bernhardt played grand theatres, circus tents and even for prisoners on death row… it's a grand tradition.

Can you tell us about your best and worst ever gig?|
The season I just did with Barry Humphries and the Australian Chamber Orchestra on lost and banned Weimar music was pretty life-affirming and glorious. Crowdsurfing to Pina Bausch and David Bowie was magnificent. Working with John Cameron Mitchell. Jurowski and the London Philharmonic. No worst gigs. But there have been some hilarious ones. Pass me a martini please and we'll start work on the Memoirs. "Meowmoirs" perhaps. Yes. Lee, remember that as a title for the book. It has a bit more unique zing to it than "Martini Mammaries" doesn't it?

What to you makes the perfect cabaret show?
Heart, art, brains, thrill. surprise, revelation, transcendence, communion... and, sometimes, a well-placed banana skin.

Meow Meow can be seen at the London Wonderground (entrance situated on Thames Walk, next to Hungerford Bridge) at 9.15pm, 20 May to 8 June. Tickets are available by clicking here.

Words Lee Dalloway, @Leeroydalvin

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