Restless Love with Hebrides Ensemble and Meow Meow at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh performing Reinbert de Leeuw’s “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” is one of those rare events that pretty much defies any review description as it is more of a live immersive performance experience than anything else and once away from it, this work blows away like fragile flower petals on the wind.
This is a review though, so here we go - “ Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” (In the beautiful month of May) is a work by Dutch composer Reinbert de Leeuw that has taken elements from Franz Schubert’s Winterreise , Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe and poet Heinrich Heine and completely re-imagined selected elements into this cabaret styled work. On paper this should probably be a complete musical and literary train crash as music, spoken word and song are not “interpreted” but completely disassembled and re-constructed into something that is far from the original source. Somehow though, something new and beautiful has emerged here and this work stands on its own merits equally alongside the original material.
Bringing “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” to life musically is the Hebrides Ensemble under the guidance of co-founder and Artistic Director William Conway, with Australian born cabaret and performance artist Melissa Madden Gray aka Meow Meow bringing songs and words to life. The combination of both truly brings the uniqueness of this work to life on stage.
I first saw Meow Meow performing at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival with the “Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid” production, but this performance is far, far away from that one. “Little Mermaid” was Meow Meow in full cabaret mode, this performance is far subtler and mesmerising – this is Meow Meow the performance artist taking us all deeply into her very special performance character. Sung and spoken in German with English sub-titles on screens, this was a captivating story in words and music with not a sound from the audience for the most part of the performance as Meow Meow lived up to her reputation of captivating and terrifying audiences in equal measure.
There was a visual appearance to Meow Meow on stage in this performance that at times strongly reminded me of those classic silent screen actresses, and Clara Bow came immediately to mind. If anyone out there is ever casting for a new Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, then look no further than Meow Meow.
Reinbert de Leeuw’s “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai” takes no prisoners – you will have strong emotions one way or the other to this work, but it is one that I found worked on so many levels, and Hebrides Ensemble and Meow Meow were the perfect partners to bring this work to life.
Review by Tom King