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sydney festival


love’s waiting room

david williams all the way with meow meow


Meow Meow Meow Meow
photo Prudence Upton
OUR DIVA ARRIVES WITH A BANG, KNOCKING A PANEL OFF THE WALL THAT COMES CRASHING DOWN ON THE OBLIGATORY BABY GRAND. SHE DUSTS HERSELF OFF, GETS THE DANCE ROUTINE OUT OF THE WAY, CLAIMING IT’S A SYDNEY FESTIVAL FUNDING REQUIREMENT THAT EVERY WORK CONTAIN DANCE (TONGUE FIRMLY IN CHEEK AND PRESSED AGAINST HER FAKE CIGARETTE), CHANGES COSTUME, VEERS ALARMINGLY AROUND THE STAGE AND ENLISTS AUDIENCE MEMBERS TO OPERATE PLASMA SCREENS SO WE CAN WATCH PRE-RECORDED PERFORMANCES WHILE SHE HAS ANOTHER DRINK. “THE FESTIVAL SAID THAT I COULD DO ANYTHING I WANTED. THAT WAS THEIR FIRST MISTAKE.”

With the preliminaries out of the way, Meow Meow approaches the burning question animating the evening’s entertainment: “How long does it take to fall in love?” Tonight’s performance, she declares, will examine a range of evidence from scientific experts on the subject—anthropologists, psychologists, and neurologists —and include an examination of how the onset of love can be measured. Sure enough, as she sets up her first song, she finds herself unable to sing and after some time manages to cough up an alarmingly long measuring tape—the technology of measurement an obstacle to the form of cabaret, producing a gag reflex.

Mid-song, our host spins suddenly. My seat is declared to be reserved, and I am led charmingly yet forcefully to another chair, right at the end of the catwalk that divides the audience in two, becoming in the process another part of the spectacle, and later a somewhat inept translator for a song. With her curiously engaging mode of aggressive vulnerability, Meow Meow is highly adept at coopting and compelling audience members to perform—to hold her microphone, bring her coffee, caress her as she sings, play the bugle, suck lollipops while blindfolded, and even submit to banishment to a cupboard. With our help she is never left alone, but it’s always clear who’s in charge. Somehow she makes us love embarrassing ourselves for her, ably assisted of course by some of the most gloriously convincing audience plants I have ever witnessed.

Insert the Name of the Person You Love is a cabaret performance driven by distraction as much as by its purported focus on the science of love. In her quest for knowledge, Meow Meow never manages to complete any of her songs, interrupting herself by escalating her demands for audience involvement, swigging more wine and constantly seeking updates about the status of the missing expert, a ‘love doctor’ whose scientific lecture demonstration will enlighten everyone about the science of falling in love. He’s stuck at customs apparently, an insurmountable problem with his visa. The cabaret is just something to fill in the time.

The show continues to wend its way crazily towards an end, encompassing stunning vocal work, an unexpectedly beautiful en pointe dance sequence, and a grand finale to die for. Quite simply, Meow Meow’s constantly unravelling, glamorously shambolic and seemingly out-of-control performance is constantly surprising and always entertaining: a masterful, delicious and delirious ride.


Meow Meow, Insert the Name of the Person You Love, performer-deviser Meow Meow, piano Lance Horne, director Rodney Fisher, lighting designer Nick Schlieper, sound supervisor Max Lyandvert, The Pilgrim Theatre, Sydney, Jan 22-26

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 13

© David Williams; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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