REVIEW: Meow Meow, Little Match Girl
GT finds out that nobody is safe when Meow Meow takes to the stage...
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Just one year ago, I found myself kneeling on stage alongside Meow Meow - a cabaret diva of the highest order - caressing her breasts while she sang a French love song to a mesmerised audience at London’s Apollo Theatre. A word of advice - only the brave or the stupid will sit on an aisle seat.
Meow’s most recent show, Little Match Girl, is a creation by herself and Iain Grandage. Originally performed in Australia and transferred to The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Meow uses props, lights and audience members to recreate Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of a freezing child selling matches. Aimed primarily at adults, Meow describes the 85-minute piece as her ‘agit-prop fairy tale’. Seemingly disastrous from the first 5 minutes, Meow and her band struggle through a power cut and enlist their musical director (the mega-talented Lance Horne) to help ‘keep the show alive’ by any method available. Her prodigious talent and alarmingly ballsy approach to her unsuspecting audience is the key to keeping the show seem utterly spontaneous and hilarious, whilst never digressing too far from the sad fable that ties her madcap performance together.
A journey through whispered ballads to big Broadway-themed numbers, the surreal act concludes with a particularly beautiful moment made possible by Set Designer Anna Cordingley’s suspended chandelier, which transforms into an illuminated ball gown and raises Meow high above the stage for her final number and subsequent tragic end to the life of the Little Match Girl. Inspired by a painting that Meow discovered on her previous tour, this glittering finale is a touching addition to an otherwise dark and relatively simplistic show, and feels representative of Meow’s elaborate approach to contemporary cabaret.
‘Little Match Girl’ is the third time I have seen Meow Meow perform (including her role as the narrator in the short-run but sensational ‘Umbrellas of Cherbourg’) and, with the aesthetic of the final number lodged firmly in my memory, it’s clear that she's on fine form. The dark through-line of the piece may have perhaps restricted her creativity to a certain extent, but her act remains incredibly tight and received a full standing ovation. Meow’s ability to switch from heartfelt tragedy to side-splitting humour within seconds is an impressive skill that gives her act such a high-contrast quality that you rarely see on stage.
One thing is for sure: when you buy a ticket to see Meow Meow, you are in for a theatrical experience like no other. As an audience member it’s impossible not to love - or fear - such an important and refreshing member of London’s cabaret circuit.
Meow Meow returns to Southbank Centre for a performance of 'The Threepenny Opera' with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Saturday 2 March 2013, 7.30pm
Words: Matt Crockett
Photography: Jeff Busby