Travel News

Meow Meow: how I travel

The cabaret performer travels with sequins and heels in her hand luggage and, ideally, Barry Humphries in the seat beside her.

Meow Meow

Just back from: London, performing my rather wild show Pandemonium with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall - an evening of totally orchestrated chaos.

Next up: Sydney Festival, performing Pandemonium with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra - can't wait.

I've always loved being in and around the theatre, and communing with the ghosts of the theatre. I distinctly remember the colours of the little theatre at the Palace of Versailles - all blues and green-golds. And Munich, seeing Pina Bausch dance. Paris, the roof of the Palais Garnier. London, the legs of Sylvie Guillem performing William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated with the Royal Ballet. And in Edinburgh, Barrie Kosky's Poppea.

It's not just the places I've seen that influence me, it's the travel itself. I'm an incessant traveller, and suitcases and luggage often work their way into my thematics and set designs. A lot of the songs I sing are about exile and migration.

Berlin is the city that has left the deepest impression on me. I find its extraordinarily complicated history deeply moving.

I'm lucky. My travel companions are brilliant. The Australian Chamber Orchestra's artistic director Richard Tognetti and principal violin Satu Vänskä are hilarious to travel with - extremely naughty, and I love that. Experiencing inflight turbulence with Barry Humphries is illuminating. Our performances together of the Weimar repertoire are intense, and the travel can be gruelling so it's lovely to have a comrade in arms. Opera director Cameron Menzies, designer Andrea Lauer and I have had hilarious travel episodes recently, dragging inflatable dolls, mannequins and headdresses from Liverpool to London. Even the simple journey from the dressing room to the stage at London's Festival Hall can be epic if one is wearing 12 pairs of tights and a Christmas tree. It's all about hysterical giggling with like-minded souls.

I always pack a sparkly dress in my hand luggage, just in case I have to entertain people on the flight or head straight to a performance after landing. And sensible things like little plastic containers, coffee filters, headphones, and an eye mask.

Oh, and vintage gold-mesh gloves for glamour and power, and a few jewellery talismans given by friends, which I keep close when I'm far away from them.

Lessons learned the hard way: always take a costume and heels in hand luggage in case the suitcase goes missing. I had a tutu that followed me around the world for weeks in delayed baggage - it just couldn't keep up with my schedule. Bags only get heavier. Good friends let you leave things with them when you move on. Sometimes the only way to heat a disappointing room-service croissant is with a hairdryer. I should patent that.

One day I'd like to be a calm traveller. Streamlined. It will never happen, though. Too many shoes and ridiculous props, and too many mad ideas on the go.

Meow Meow's Pandemonium is performed at the Sydney Opera House on 22 and 23 January during the Sydney Festival.