Meow Meow: 'I'm a highly flammable woman so I have to be careful in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse'
Australian cabaret performer Meow Meow returns to London with her Christmas show, this time performed in the intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Australian cabaret performer, singer and actor Meow Meow's extraordinary career has taken her from performing with the likes of circus troupe La Clique to starring on the main stage at Shakespeare's Globe as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. She has won the Australian equivalent of a Tony – a Helpmann Award – for Best Cabaret Performer and in 2010 was awarded the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize. She has starred in several of Emma Rice's productions, including The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in the West End and has sung with some of the world's top orchestras. She's returning to the Globe this Christmas with her anti-Christmas show Apocalypse Meow.
I'm a highly flammable woman, which is the main degree of concern for my show at the candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. There are some challenges for adapting Apocalypse Meow into that space, like how to not set myself on fire. The theatre is like a little Christmas box, it's such a unique space, and I want the show to embrace it.
But it is called Apocalypse Meow so there's a degree of chaos and destruction. I think of it a bit like a pantomime that becomes a piece of theatre in a more profound and poignant way. It's a raucous night out that turns into something else. I will be joined by musicians, so it's a music theatre show, and it's just bloody beautiful, I have to say that myself. I am working on how you construct a sense of desolation in what is such a warm space.
I had to judge the Globe stewards' bake off the other day. I'm usually known for being buxom and long legged but I have eaten so many cakes I may well become a Christmas pudding. I am so happy to be able to bring this show that I love so much back to finish off Emma Rice's last season. But now the Globe has me they will never be rid of me. They will be addicted.
The story of Emma Rice and I meeting is very beautiful. It was through Annette McLaughlin, who worked with Emma on Brief Encounter. Annette was friends with Liza Minnelli and the boyfriend of Liza's dance captain was my pianist on a show in Joe's Pub in New York. Annette was brought along to see my show and afterwards she came up to me and said: "I've just got this really strong feeling that you and my director Emma Rice must meet."
I always say I was born in a bar in Berlin. I've been performing my whole life and I live onstage and offstage in a very heightened way. I had a strong Russian ballet training and I was always singing, so making hybrid theatre makes most sense to me. Either opera that's super theatrical or dance that's super theatrical: hybrid theatre is where my interests are.
I don't make a massive division between the art forms or high or low art. It goes from pants on head stupidness to the likes of a concert I've done recently with the Hebrides Ensemble in Scotland which was all Schubert and Schumann. That wasn't funny at all, it was unbelievably intense. It is liberating because I am not tied to a genre. It's confusing for some people but I also think it's magical.
Meow Meow - Apocalypse Meow runs at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 21 to 31 December.