The Cat Is Back

22 January 2013 | 6:00 am | Sarah Braybrooke

“It really is a pretty intense showbiz travel lifestyle with masses of suitcases and Marlene Dietrich-esque degrees of costumes, sequins and whatnot... They can be a bugger to get through customs though.”

Meow Meow, the unmissable, inextinguishable and onomatopoeic cabaret diva, is back. Following sold out seasons in New York, Berlin and London's West End, she's returning for an encore tour of Australia before heading back to London for a run of The Little Match Girl at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It's been a very busy year. “It really is a pretty intense showbiz travel lifestyle with masses of suitcases and Marlene Dietrich-esque degrees of costumes, sequins and whatnot,” Meow says before deadpanning. “They can be a bugger to get through customs though.”  

With a repertoire that typically includes classics like Jacques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas and Surabaya Johnny by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, on her Australian tour Meow also plans to preview some songs from a forthcoming album which she has been developing with Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini. Writing the album has been a long journey; one of the album's songs took over two years to finish, she explains. “You know, life changes radically in two years time. It began as a light love song…but it's become something extremely symbolic for me. It is actually a very laden piece. If I'm writing something, it is much easier for me to write things which are very distant from myself, and more kind of genre-based. It is much easier to write a ditty, but if you are writing from your heart and soul you want to be true to your experience.”

Striking the fine balance between sincerity and self-indulgence as a performer is something that Meow Meow seems to think about a lot. “I never want to make things so specific that it doesn't speak to a wider audience. Because that is the whole point of singing publicly - so that you are communicating and not just telling your story…it's a little bit smug in a way, to have a captive audience and just subject them to your personal emotions. But on the other hand people do sometimes want to see you bleed. I often feel as though I bleed in performance, even though sometimes what I'm doing is ridiculous. Completely ridiculous and stupid and funny, but I don't ever really feel like I've done a good show unless I'm bruised,” Meow pauses for mock dramatic effect and smiles, “Either physically or emotionally: I don't see the point of doing things half-heartedly.”

As a performer, Meow Meow embodies a kind of vulnerable vampishness that manages to be simultaneously melancholic, seductive and very funny. These contrasts are far from accidental. “I think that's actually the way that life is. I'm often aware of my ridiculousness, that for instance, when you are feeling something passionately you might not realise that your skirt is tucked into your pants. Or, that someone is only actually looking at your boobs, no matter what you sing.” Meow Meow laughs, before saying philosophically, “You can't control how people perceive you, and so I try to give as many options to the audience as to how they want to perceive me. And that's quite freeing really.”

WHAT: Meow Meow
WHEN & WHERE: Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 January, Opera House, Sydney NSW