“Post, post modern diva” and queen of 21st century cabaret Meow Meow brings her dazzling retelling of The Little Mermaid to the Edinburgh International Festival 

Equally at home in a Berlin nightclub, or appearing at Shakespeare’s Globe, singer Meow Meow has long been fascinated by fairy tales and folklore.

The cabaret artist, whose songs explore the agony of love, will be bringing her version of The Little Mermaid to this year’s International Festival.

Her interpretation addresses the dark, cruel heart of the Hans Christian Anderson story and promises to sparkle with sex, politics and dark humour.

“It couldn’t be more visceral in the original.  The deal the little mermaid makes with the Sea Witch is that she must give up her beautiful voice as a sacrifice in order to get legs so she can meet the Prince.  But that doesn’t give her a happy ending.  In Hans Christian Anderson it only gives her the chance to dance with the Prince.  He falls in love with someone else.”

The Australian singer and songwriter first conceived of The Little Mermaid as an agit prop fairy tale when she was working in Shanghai and saw a 1960s film version, made in the Czech Republic.

“It reflected the experience of being a showgirl and travelling the world looking for love.  Does true love exist and does it mean you have to negate part of yourself.”

‘Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid’, includes her own songs, alongside music from Radiohead and new compositions from Thomas Lauderdale, Amanda Palmer, Megan Washington and others.  The Edinburgh International Festival production is the European premiere of a show originally created for the Sydney Festival.

Accompanied by the Siren Orchestra and directed by Cal McCrystal, her Little Mermaid promises to be epic and imaginative on a grand scale, while retaining the mischief, intimacy and humour of Meow Meow’s cabaret shows.

It begins on a bleak stage, set at the end of the world.  “We go into the psyche through the ocean, through the sea of the mind.”

“I’ve never seen the Disney version,” she says.   But Disney femininity, in all its bland saccharine sweetness, informs her vision of the impossible expectations placed on modern women.

“I am absolutely a feminist in all my work.  But what is so clear in this story is the Prince isn’t an evil person at all.  He doesn’t ignore the little mermaid – he simply doesn’t see her.  It is extremely poignant for that reason.   It’s a story about projection and I find it incredibly contemporary.”

Meow Meow performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company as Titania last year and also appeared at last year’s Festival with Barry Humphries and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Silenced Voices.

Politics is one of the reasons Meow Meow keeps returning to the songs of Weimar.  “I feel right when I’m singing Brecht.  I feel it right in my bones”.

She is looking forward to Edinburgh.  “It’s got such a special energy, all these hearts and hopes and dreams.  I also feel very aware of the history of Edinburgh. What is it, twenty thousand witches burned?”

“It’s perfect for Hans Christian Anderson, because you feel so connected to another time.”

Words: Claire Smith

Photo: Andy Wide 


Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid The Hub, 3-27 August, 10.30pm, from £15

Tel: 0131 473 2000


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