Sunday, 7 September 2008

Vamp by Meow Meow, Sep 7, 2008 ***


Vamp by Meow Meow
By Malthouse Theatre
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, Tues to Sat until Sep 7 to 20, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:***

Meow Meow’s Vamp is a decadent, dissolute and manic diva with ruby-red, pouting mouth and pert bosom tucked into a parade of fabulous, figure-hugging black costumes. 

She whines and seduces, writhes, grinds and howls as she prowls over the metallic set (Anna Tregloan), singing in a voice that can glitter diamond bright or growl with a smoky gruffness.

The vamp is a ghostly reminder of femme fatales past, including Eve, Lilith, Delilah, Judith, Eurydice and Salome. Meow Meow doesn’t play any one vamp throughout but dialogue from Oscar Wilde’s 1984 play, Salome, provides the connective tissue in this piece, linking the vignettes and songs.

As Salome, she is determined to seduce the pious John The Baptist who is incarcerated beneath a grille in the floor. The Baptist is a stubborn celibate and his voice booms his rejection of the slinky cat-like Salome. She clutches his severed head to her bosom.

The Baptist is not the only victim of the vamp. The limbs of Samson, Adam, Orpheus, Napoleon and others litter the stage by the end and even male members of the audience are enticed or dragged on stage to play dead lovers or to hoist Meow Meow bodily over their heads.

Her  “seven deadly songs for the end of time” echo Kurt Weill’s tunes, Bertolt Brecht’s theatre and the Weimar cabaret. Meow Meow writes most lyrics, with music by Iain Grandage and, with titles such as Fifteen Minutes of Femme and Amnesia, Mon Amour, they are clever and complex. 

La Vipere and Poison talk about woman as snake-like seducer, poisoner and fatal attractor while The German song, Ich Bin Ein Vamp (1932), is a cunning signature tune.

Paul Jackson dramatically lights Tregloan’s distressed, industrial set with glaring spotlights and eerie mauves and blues. Tregloan’s extraordinary costumes are a feature, especially the black tutu decorated with tiny human hands. 

Scraps of historical film and images of Meow Meow in exotic cities (Rhys Graham, Natasha Gadd) play on a huge, moon-shaped screen. Grandage and his five piece band provide earthy accompaniment that recalls gypsy and Yiddish music.

There is no doubt that Meow Meow is a compelling and talented performer with a powerful voice and riveting stage presence. However, this show becomes repetitive and could be more successful if it were shorter.

By Kate Herbert

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