Australian singer, dancer and comedian Meow Meow has worked with esteemed choreographer Pina Bausch, performed with internationally acclaimed symphonies, earned props from David Bowie and shared stages with Amanda Palmer, whom she counts as a dear friend. But she’ll be solo for An Audience with Meow Meow, a one-woman show playing at the Cutler Majestic Theatre Oct. 8-24. We caught up with Meow Meow before curtain time.
Your performance style is very unique. Describe what you do in your own words.I describe this as kamikaze performance because it’s pretty relentless—in a hilarious way, I hope. It’s sort of a mixture of high art and low art, really, and I like to jump between all of them and kind of assault the audience with as many attacks as I can, in the most loving, theatrical way. I’m a huge fan of opera and Schubert and Schumann, and I like to mix that in with Radiohead. Why not?
Where do you find inspiration? I’m very influenced by people like Cindy Sherman, the photographer, with her multi-layered identities and representations of women in all sorts of fascinating social classes and situations. And her sense of self, I suppose, as she views herself constantly morphing and putting herself in the past, present and future. Nina Simone I’m very influenced by, in terms of voice. The absolute desperation and passion and commitment in her voice. And the way that she performed is very inspirational to me, just without boundaries. Sarah Bernhardt, who I think actually performed in the Cutler Majestic; that’s very exciting. I think she was preparing for a film when she died. Even with the amputated leg, she kept going. I really love that sort of relentless obsession with some sort of spiritual connection with the audience.
Do you feel that way, that performing is something you’re compelled to do? I do. I feel like performing is breathing. We’ve all had difficult times in our lives, and I feel very grateful that music and performance is such a large part of my life because it’s sort of given me a personal cathartic outlet. But also, the physical aspect of getting onstage and breathing—singing makes you breathe—I’m sort of addressing that in this show. I feel lucky that with music we have something that really connects us very quickly with the heart and the soul. I think particularly in this show, it’s about how I must dance till I die, because the alternative is frightening.
I think I’d probably be a photographer. I don’t know; music is so important that I can’t imagine my life without it. I do like writing. I write a lot of songs and verses, but if we were to take out music, I just think I’d die. But I think as an artist you’re sort of engaging with people all the time, and observing them and putting them into your work, so I think that photography is still doing that.
What’s a song that really had an effect on your relationship with music? Oh, there’s so many. I’ve just been in Slovenia with the orchestra over there, and in that program, Richard Tognetti, who’s one of the most exquisite violinists in the world, was conducting Mahler’s Fifth [Symphony] from Death in Venice. I first heard that when I was a little girl, and it was interesting just standing in the wings before I went on. I felt so connected to history and beauty.