Venue: La Gayola
Meow Meow is having a bad day. A broken heart, her dancers delayed at customs and a lighting technician who won’t follow instructions.Whilst Lance Horne plays piano and acts as a world-weary straight man, she lists her grievances under her breath making clear that she is grudgingly fulfilling a contractual obligation. The restrictions under which she performs mean that she needs a lot of help from the audience.
The extreme level of audience participation is required from the start. The distracted and aggrieved diva clambers through (and over) the audience demanding help changing into her stage costume ("Got more than your money’s worth") and cadging drinks. It is clear that participation will not be limited to clapping along or singing a chorus. Demands include carrying her onstage, translating French lyrics, playing piano or even just "hug me, love me."
In real life, a diva is a pain and an act based upon drawing humour from puncturing the pretensions of such a performer would become tiresome. Meow Meow, however, has created a vulnerable and very human character. Her resignation, when an on-stage costume change ends with her putting on her bikini inside out, gives the character a degree of humility and even dignity. As a result, we do not laugh at her but rather admire her for carrying on under what are (she constantly reminds us) adverse conditions.
This reaches a peak with a sequence hard to describe but hilarious to watch when audience members are used as backing dancers. One lucky chap kneels with his face in Meow Meow’s crotch, only to be required to stand thereby flipping her into the arms of the other dancers. It could all go horribly wrong and result in injury but somehow it works and becomes increasingly funny as Meow Meow ends up facing the audience with her legs obscenely wide apart before demanding that her dancers take her crowd surfing.
Meow Meow has an exceptional vocal range from bruised torch songs through operatic notes to banshee screams. Although her singing is always spot on, her attitude is highly irreverent. Songs are constantly described as being "political" even if about Pokka dot bikinis. When the opening of a song fails to generate the desired response Meow Meow simply switches languages for subsequent verses. A tender love song ends with an attempted subliminal instruction: "Buy CDs!"
Beyond Glamour, The Absinthe Tour is a very funny night out. More importantly it introduces us to a rare thing – an endearing and highly original character.
It might be queer up north but it's also whole lot of fun.
- Dave Cunningham