It's not exactly Disney – but it's not very Hans Christian Andersen either. Australian cabaret artist Meow Meow offers her usual combination here of huge-lunged songs, elegant aerial work, barmy audience interaction and saucy innuendo, all delivered through a persona that is as comically ramshackle as she is fiercely glamorous. Her voice is plummy RP, except when she barks bossy commandments in German; her eyes flash fiercely or bat seductively. And the audience surrenders, totally.
Instead of really 'doing' The Little Mermaid, she plunges into the sea of love: Meow Meow claims not to have the vigour to do the spectacular take on the Little Mermaid she'd planned, because she's down in the dumps about not being able to find romance. During the course of the show, she looks for it in the audience and with a handyman who comes to fix her pipes (yes…), after a technical hitch prevents the bubbles she'd planned to flood the auditorium with from working. She thinks she might be in there – but turns out he's more of a "leg man".
Andersen's fable and Meow Meow's fabulously chaotic non-version of it do, therefore, overlap as we descend into the murky waters of her subconscious to splash about a bit. That workman returns as the embodiment of one of her romantic fantasies, an absurd prince in a gold lame outfit. An early joke where she dredges up a pair of red ballet shoes – "wrong story" – returns, as Meow Meow the mermaid, shuffling around in a hobble-skirt style tail, is transformed into a leggy human who must don shoes and learn to walk, to dance, to impress her prince. Her comedic, staggering attempts to be seductive while practically crippled underline the way these supposedly romantic fairy stories often seem to require women to mutilate themselves for love.
But let's not overanalyse: following only its own dreamy logic, this is a jolly romp of a show. There's a cracking live band, crowdsurfing, blow-up sex-doll alter egos, Radiohead covers, and nervous men from the audience being bedecked in long pastel-coloured wigs. It's a hoot. Granted, much of it may feel familiar to those who've seen her previous productions – this is not an artist pushing forwards, or ever really pushing themselves. But then Meow Meow's shtick works wonderfully: it's a pleasure to dive under the sea with this diva.
Meow Meow's Little Mermaid is at The Hub until 27 August.