An Audience with Meow Meow

Tuesday October 13, 2015

Meow Meow
Meow Meow  

Australian chanteuse Meow Meow is as much of a star as she thinks she is - a beautiful singer, a gifted comedienne, a powerful actress, and a top-notch improviser. Her show "An Audience with Meow Meow" will have you in fits of laughter one minute and in stunned silence as human truths are revealed the next. It is a splendid mash-up of cabaret, vaudeville, camp, and documentary about the life and purpose of entertainers.

Meow Meow exerts a hypnotic power over the audience. She gently lures people into assisting her both on stage and in the house throughout; often before they know what is happening. Should anyone she involves have stage fright, they never show it; she inspires that much ease and confidence. She is a skilled seductress that has obviously learned from the best.

She struts, pouts, purrs, and belts her way through an impressive range of music. French chansons, Weimar cabaret numbers and contemporary hits are all treated with the same depth of comprehension and emotion. Not many of today's performers can work in multiple languages but Meow Meow does it as second nature.

Counterpoint to the music is her deft physical comedy and improve skills. Her navigation between the scripted and improvised portions of the script is seamless. She is descended from many great women performers - Edith Piaf, Mae West, Carol Burnett all come to mind - yet she is unique among them and it never feels like she is impersonating anyone but herself.

It is possibly the performance of the season.

She observes early in the show, that the selected title is deliberate. While she has granted us an audience with her (as would any queen), we have also granted her an audience with us. We are giving our time to her and she appreciates it. It is very clear that she knows without an audience, she is nothing.

This is the element of the show that is most fascinating. In the midst of the well-controlled chaos (make no mistake, Meow Meow is always in charge) she will occasionally wax poetic about the nature of theater and performance: About our accepted roles as performer and audience, about the transformative properties of the proscenium.

One of the most powerful points she makes is regarding how theater has become a subversive act. Everyone is now constantly connected via electronics and face-to-face conversations are rare. Therefore, for an audience and a performer to agree to come together and not only share a physical space, but also to communicate and share an experience has become an act of subversion.

Here's to the resistance.

"An Audience with Meow Meow" continues through October 24 at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., Boston, MA. For more information visit the ArtsEmerson website.