Music review: Hebrides Ensemble & Meow Meow: Restless Love

EVEN after experiencing Restless Love, it's still tough to say what it actually was. But when a show is this good, this daringly provocative, with performances so utterly committed, does it really matter?
Cabaret star Meow Meow gave a performance of great feelingCabaret star Meow Meow gave a performance of great feeling
Cabaret star Meow Meow gave a performance of great feeling

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh *****

What Restless Love (or, to give it its proper title, Im wunderschönen Monat Mai) is, in dry terms, is a rethink of art songs by Schubert and Schumann by Dutch composer and conductor Reinberg de Leeuw, for a cabaret chanteuse and 14-piece ensemble. But that doesn’t even come close to reflecting the sheer visceral impact of Australian diva Meow Meow’s ferociously focused performance with the Hebrides Ensemble, on equally dramatic form.

She snarled, roared and purred (and also, it has to be said, very convincingly sang) her way through Schumann’s ‘Ich grolle nicht’, Schubert’s ‘Erlkönig’ and 19 other numbers, fused together in de Leeuw’s dream-like (or maybe nightmare-like) recastings, seeming to delve deep into the fractured mind of a woman who has loved, lost and loosened her grip on reality as a result.

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Lieder purists might well raise their eyebrows. But taken on its own terms, the show seemed to strip away the polite restraint of the two composers’ originals and expose the seething Romantic emotions underneath – captured with unflinching rawness in Meow Meow’s spellbinding Gothic intensity. It sometimes fell uncomfortably between straighforward narrative and something more indefinable, but with the conductor-less Hebrides players cueing each other as if in a grand chamber ensemble, it was a remarkable, thoroughly convincing achievement, as bold and uncompromising as it was compelling.