The show opens with a weeping woman staggering onto stage, wearing two fur coats. “This,” she says in between exaggerated sobs, “is a show about happiness.” This, ladies, gentlemen, and non-binaries is award-winning cabaret star Meow Meow, and her flamboyant version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
The opening sequence of the show is brilliantly timed and delivered. Meow Meow deconstructs the performance she’s about to give, questioning the appropriateness of hilarity—given that we’re all “fucked”—whilst flapping around the stage in flippers and a corset. Some of the ways that the original fairytale is refracted are also both joyful and pleasingly layered: mismatched mannequin parts are used to represent the best bits from Meow Meow’s past lovers, reassembled in an attempt to create an ideal. The resulting “statue of limitations” harpoons the oddly anatomical idealism of The Little Mermaid.
However, while Meow Meow’s performance is flawlessly professional, and the staging a nautical spectacle, the production itself becomes increasingly laboured. The chaotic structure of the show results in long-winded interactions with the audience, three men in mermaid outfits on stage for far longer than is funny, with the clumsy evolutions of Meow Meow’s love interest (played by Chris Ryan) proving frustrating. Smart asides and visual jokes—such as Meow Meow’s romantic fantasy revealing a t-shirt with Disney’s Ariel printed on it—are lost in the confusion.
Ultimately, though the obligatory innuendo is well conceived, and some of the songs are real highlights, this show devolves into a confused whimsy, with a flat, sentimental end.