Sydney Festival Review: Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid – Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Hyde Park

Positioned as one of the must-see shows of the 2016 program, Sydney Festival mainstay Meow Meow‘s The Little Mermaid is entertaining audiences nightly in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent at Hyde Park in a World Premiere production.

The show is part two of Meow Meow’s “Little” trilogy – the first part of which, Little Match Girl, was seen at the festival in 2011 – and is, as the title suggests, a take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. With Meow Meow’s distinctively “post-postmodern” voice shaking things up… significantly.

“The is a show about happiness”, Meow Meow says at the start of the show, perched atop a golden rock, broken up by her exaggerated tears, before jumping into the show’s first song “Wonderful Life” – a cover of Black’s 1987 track. It sets the stage for the humour we’re going to see through the show – a little bit bizarre, a little bit self-deprecating and outright hilarious. There are also plenty of jokes in there for the theatre fans (“Get out of the way! You’re all blocking!”), while she promises “you will get your money’s worth, even if I have to pop out a nipple!”.

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The show is set in the round, featuting a fantastic five piece band (“The Siren Effect Orchestra”), all dressed as sailors, ano a simple, well executed design from Anna Cordingley and Paul Jackson that allows Meow Meow to fly, swim and dive as she dons her Mermaid frock.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the show – but as much as this is a one-woman show for the most part (with some excellent props along the way), Chris Ryan is brilliant in his role, as the shows dips in and out of reality. He delivers some great lines – as well as one of the show’s best scenes, when he finds himself charming the mermaid herself in French… It’s funnier than it sounds (and I won’t say why). Oh, and there’s one part of the set that will require some audience participation. You have been warned.

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But as much as the story is entertaining – and Meow Meow is a joy to watch as she takes you through the 70 minute tale – this is a show that is held together by an incredible run of music – from the cover of Black‘s “Wonderful Life” at the start, to a spellbinding rendition of Radiohead‘s “Fake Plastic Trees” towards the end. She has one incredible set of pipes and does each and every song ample justice, while cleverly finding ways to weave them through the story.

Original music is scattered throughout, composed by the likes of Jherek Bischoff, Kate Miller-Heidke (“The Mysterious Girl”), Amanda Palmer (“The Refugee”) and Megan Washington (“Making Love”). Other covers from Regina Spektor (“Apres Moi”) and Dave McCormack and The Polaroids (“The Truth About Love”) also find their way into the set.

You may notice a common theme throughout these song titles: love. And indeed, this is what the show is ultimately about. And it’s a topic the acclaimed cabaret performer traverses with ease. She’s become one of the best in the business in the last 5 years, and knows how to construct a show that is as engaging as it is entertaining – while getting away with doing just about anything she wants to do. I don’t know how she does it, but she has you in the palm of her hands within moments from walking onto the stage.

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Expect to laugh, expect to cringe, expect to cheer – expect to help the Mermaid swim. Expect to have a fantastic evening in a show that is not to be missed.

A little bit weird, a whole lot of wonderful, Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid continues at The Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent through 23rd January, before travelling to the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne (28 Jan – 14 Feb 2016) and the Perth International Arts Festival (24 – 28 Feb 2016).

For tickets to the Sydney Festival shows and for more details click HERE

The reviewer attended the performance on January 8th. All photos by Prudence Upton.