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EIF Conversations: Meow Meow

8 August 2017

The phenomenon that is Meow Meow - actress, cabaret chanteuse, comedian, post-modern diva - has taken her shows to venues all over the world. She talks to Deborah Bull about her EIF show, a subversive cabaret version of the Little Mermaid or 'fairy tale gone rogue'. UK viewers can also watch the conversation on BBC iPlayer.

About Meow Meow

Meow Meow is the alter ego of Australian-born performer Melissa Madden Gray; although she prefers to characterise the relationship as "close companions", saying, "I'm always Meow Meow".

You don't expect a girl in a ballgown to throw herself off the stage
Meow Meow

Her act blurs the boundaries between cabaret and performance art, with a chaotic edge that subverts cabaret's conventions. One of her party pieces is jumping into the audience for a bit of crowd-surfing.

As she told The Guardian in a 2014 interview, "it started as this ridiculous parody – you don't expect a girl in a ballgown to throw herself off the stage – but it's become about how people react. It activates a crowd: they have to deal with you. 'We're here together! I'm real! I'm not a television!'"

Her shows blaze a trail through European masters like Brel and Brecht, interspersed with cultural references as diverse as 'Dolly Parton, Chinese courtesan songs, Piazzolla's tangos, and Hong Kong pop kitsch'.

Meow Meow was one of the highlights of last year's Festival, singing lost and banned Weimar songs alongside Barry Humphries. Also last year, she played Titania in Emma Rice's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe.

Meow Meow in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe, 2016

Meow Meow at the EIF

Meow Meow’s subversive cabaret version of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid is 'a fairy tale gone rogue'.

Photograph by Pia Johnson

The festival-long run collides Andersen’s dark aquatic fantasy with her own mis-adventures in love. It is populated with original songs and compositions by collaborators Amanda Palmer, Kate Miller-Heidke and Megan Washington.

Meow Meow's Little Mermaid is at The Hub, 3 - 27 August 2017.