Imagine watching a live performance and feeling like your mere presence annoys the performer. Imagine feeling like the show itself is a huge inconvenience, and that the performer can’t wait for it to end. Then imagine being blown away by that very same performance, and you’ll have an idea of what it is like to watch Burlesque artist Meow Meow do her thing.
I had the pleasure of viewing Meow Meow’s evening-length show, Beyond Glamour, on February 13th at the Durham Arts Council’s PSI Theatre. And the pleasure was certainly mine, not hers…or so she made it seem.
At the top of the show, Meow Meow hurried in the door, smoking two cigarettes and dragging luggage behind her. She explained that she had had “a bit of a shitty afternoon,” after being dumped by her boyfriend and held up at the airport. Because her dancing boys were absent, Meow Meow had audience members carry her props to the stage while others hastily removed her layers of pleather and glittering garb. And with that shot-out-of-a-cannon style entrance, Meow Meow set the stage for a raucous, unpredictable evening.
Meow Meow spent the night letting the audience know how the show would have played out if it were in its top form. The captivating performer often gave lighting cues, requesting ‘political lighting’ for dramatic moments and blackouts when she felt humiliated; she also noted choreographic changes…may of which substituted less impressive moves for showy leaps and splits.
But no one in the audience was complaining.
Meow Meow’s performance quality was beyond seasoned; she spat out sarcastic remarks and crooned with perfect deliberation, all under the guise that she was having an “off” night. From the singer’s ear-piercing shrieks to her haunting whispers, she had the audience members eating out of the palms of her hands – which was great, because she often asked them to get onstage.
Choice audience members found themselves helping Meow Meow undress, sharing her wine and performing onstage as her backup dancers. Meow Meow also occasionally requested that members of the audience translate her song lyrics, which ranged from French love songs to more ‘political texts’ in German or Italian. And, in a heart-melting moment, Meow Meow slowed down to sing Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees.”
Meow Meow’s command of multiple languages – her ability not only to speak them, but to imbue each one with genuine emotion – gave Beyond Glamour universal appeal; regardless of an audience member’s native tongue, Meow Meow can speak to him or her. And beyond her glamour and her well-tuned vocals, it is that ability to touch hearts that gives Meow Meow so much allure.
Meow Meow’s Beyond Glamour was a joy to watch, and I left wishing so badly that it had a surprise second half. You can rest assured, though, that Meow Meow let everyone in the audience know that she was contracted for only 70 minutes. And that was all we got.
Have you seen Meow Meow, or any other burlesque performer, in a live show? What was your experience like? Leave me a comment below and let me know!