Left - Meow Meow. Photo - Jeff Busby. Cover Photo - Karl Giant
Vamp is no simple cabaret piece, rather a dense theatrical experience intertwining original vocals, aerial work, monologue and bizarre 1920’s inspired costume. Its 90 minutes is held together by performer extraordinaire Meow Meow, a chaotic, multi-faceted character who shifts from tragic try-hard to die-hard feminist and everything in between. Meow Meow describes herself as a diva of no fixed address and this aptly sums up her eclectic musings that refer across centuries and cultures and conjure women both empowered and defeated.
Inspired by the femme fatale throughout history, but especially focused on the Salome figure, Meow Meow, with Iain Grandage, has written a song cycle, Seven deadly Songs for the End of Time. It is jam packed with enough material for several shows. She milks the theme of seven – dance of the seven veils, seven sets of male mannequins, seven songs in her cycle, and ties together ideas and imagery in long-winded, but, ultimately, very satisfying ways. Grainy film footage projects onto a circular wall housing a door atop a flight of metal stairs and introduces each extended song. The multi-leveled set (designed by Anna Tregloan) allows for exaggerated entrances and the mixing of showgirl glamour with urban grit, all part of Meow Meow’s wide dramatic range.
Hiding in the background, beneath and around the staircase, The Orchestra of Wild Dogs adds edgy support to the convoluted proceedings without ever stealing Meow Meow’s thunder. Equally important is the audience, seated in the round, who Meow Meow forcibly integrates into the show, demanding men hold her up to display her fading physical prowess, model wigs that match her own black bob or be her microphone.
It’s hard to know what to make of a character as complicated and complex as Meow Meow in a show inspired by women as diverse as Madonna and Mata Hari and with influences as broad as Weimar cabaret and the American wild west. Director Michael Kantor and dramaturge Maryanne Lynch have collaborated with Meow Meow to bring this all together and Vamp definitely gets-under-the skin. Whatever one makes of its unwieldy topic, there’s no doubting Meow Meow’s ability to capture her viewers and by night’s end, have them lapping up her every word. Her performance range and chameleon-like skill at channeling various feminine personas are unnerving, exciting, unique and unusual. They make Vamp very well worth seeing, but to absorb the material fully, several viewings may be necessary.
Malthouse Theatre presents
Venue: Merlyn Theatre
Dates: September 4 – 20, 2008
Venue: The Studio | Sydney Opera House
Dates/Times: Wed 24 to Fri 26 September & Tue 30 September to Fri 3 October at 8.15pm. Sat 27 Sep & Sat 4 Oct at 6pm & 9.30pm. Sun 5 October at 7pm.
Tickets: Tue to Thu $35 or $28 concession. Fri to Sun $39/$32. Preview $32/$22.
Bookings: (02) 9250 7777 or online at sydneyoperahouse.com