Saturday, 19 November 2011


The capacity of art to move people is one of my constant meditations.

Last night I went to the Malthouse Theatre to see cabaret diva Meow Meow in her latest show, "Little Match Girl".  Cabaret is one of my favourite live art forms mixing song, comedy, drama, politics and poetry.  I'd heard of Meow Meow but had not seen her perform or heard her sing.

Entering the theatre, I was struck by the beauty of the stage set - Celtic tattoos bordering the edges of the thrust stage, coupled with footlights and a huge chandelier glittering above.  Lighting and tricks of light were playfully integrated into the show and used as a way of interacting with the audience.  Simple ideas executed with humour and warmth.

The first glimpse of the star was perfectly cabaret - red glittery dress slit to there, shiny, high red shoes, wild black hair, glittery eye shadow and red lips rumpled on a disgusting looking bed next to a man tied to the bedpost with a stocking.  We discover the man's name is Vladimir.  Of course it is.

And then she sings!  A marvellous voice, rich yet vulnerable, coupled with her instincts for comedy and story telling take us on a wonderful ride for over an hour.

I left the theatre feeling that I may have just seen the perfect show.  I read this morning that the show is different every night.  How lucky was I to be there, last night, for that one!

At the other end of the spectrum, I lay weeping in bed this morning as I read the last twenty pages of Patti Smith's memoir of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe, "Just Kids".

I was reading this book because it was selected by my book group. My heart sank a little when I heard about the selection because I didn't really know anything about Patti Smith and had no particular interest in finding out.  I knew of Robert Mapplethorpe's work, but again, had no particular interest in devoting time to reading about them.  What a wonderful thing book groups are!  Opening you to read things you may otherwise have left or not known about.

This book is a wonderful meditation on friendship, love and art set in the 1960's and '70's in New York City. Supporting cast includes Andy Warhol, Sam Shepherd, Alan Ginsberg, Janice Joplin, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, William Burroughs, and the Chelsea Hotel - it's a building, but really, it's a character in the story too.

Even reading the foreword where Patti describes receiving the news that Robert had died from AIDS was deeply emotional.  By the time I'd spent time with them and become attached and fascinated over 200 pages, reading about his end left me crying buckets.  Beautifully and tenderly written with what feels like deep honesty.

The power of art in all its forms to move.  Where would we be without it?

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