When I was a little girl, my grandmother took me to a circus, where I was invited into the ring by the glamorous talent, and told to hold a rope while they performed around me. This early tilt at stardom did not endear me to life in the spotlight, and left with me a fear of impromptu audience participation. As a result, my anxiety levels were often high during Meow Meow’s spectacular and highly interactive performance at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Meow Meow’s show, Beyond Glamour: The Absinth Tour, is just one of many Queensland Music Festival performances that are being hosted by the revamped New Farm venue. Meow Meow herself is a very difficult act to describe. She is reminiscent of Sally Bowles, with fishnet stockings, a sexy style, and eyes that are pure Liza Minnelli. However, she moves like a contortionist on the stage, and belts out an array of tunes in a range of languages, interspersed by a witty commentary.
Right from the start the audience is fully involved in the show, which is a wonderful mix of music hall and burlesque, and is probably the most unusual and one of the most entertaining live shows I have ever seen.
Quaffing red wine and smoking cigarettes, Meow Meow switches effortlessly from French to Italian to Polish and back to English, all the while enticing members of the audience onto the stage to help to change her costumes, and help translate the French lyrics she sings.
My favourite songs were the Bertolt Brecht tunes, which she acknowledged, in a rare moment of seriousness, as still being frighteningly pertinent today, and a very different and whimsical version of Misty.
But most of the time she was simply dazzling, and very, very funny. Her (mostly male) assistants from the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy helping her robe and disrobe, and enthusiastically acted as footstools and microphone stands.
The performance was held on the Turbine Platform, which meant there was seating in the middle, and standing room around the edge of the level above. We were lucky enough to be seated in the second row, and not unlucky enough to be in the first, and therefore not in the firing line to be part of the show! (I haven’t sat in the front row for any show at the Powerhouse since Johnno, where we were frequently splashed with water by the actors on stage).
The doors opened at 9pm, and it was important to be there then, in order to get the best seats closest to the stage. My only real quibble with the venue was that the noise from the bar was clearly audible at times, after the earlier shows at the venue had finished. It certainly didn’t drown out the performance, but it may have been more annoying for those sitting at the back.
When Meow Meow began the show she said she would give us an hour and no more, after all, she didn’t really want to perform, and was just fulfilling her contractual obligations! However, when the alarm clocks she had set on the piano went off, she merely said it was time for her medication, and proceeded to entertain us for another 30 minutes.
The performance, which started at 9.30 (a little too late for some: I caught a couple in our row snoring while they were waiting for the show to start) finished at around 11.30, after three encores and numerous exhortations from Meow Meow for us all to go home. But I am sure that people would have happily stayed for more. Despite my audience participation anxiety, I know I would have.
Played 13 – 14 July, 2007 at 9.30pm.
Running time: 2 hours (no interval)