On the album is a duet with Rufus Wainwright, À quoi ça sert l’amour, which they recorded at the legendary Capitol Records. Edith Piaf sang it with her last husband and this version has a “joyous Latin effect” through it.

“Recording that with Rufus was just heaven,” she says. “I feel very lucky in this obscure path that I’ve taken in extreme and obscure German 1920s music and being obsessed with French pop of the 20th century, it feels like I find my soulmates around the world.”

The inimitable Meow Meow, ahead of her Christmas show, Apocalypse Meow.

The inimitable Meow Meow, ahead of her Christmas show, Apocalypse Meow.

What attracted her to German material of that time? “Because you have this total collision of jazz, Modernism, Schoenberg, sexual liberation, perversion – what is art, what isn’t. The sense of dancing on the edge of the volcano, that can be done on the Titanic while it’s going down but I want to dance to bring into the light.

“I like that people were attempting at least to activate with their music and their text and their style of performance … I do like a dramatic and theatrical thing, like Piaf, big and bold. And there’s the other side of me that just likes the delicacy of the ’60s French pop scene.”

It’s tricky to describe Meow Meow’s work. A mix of light and dark, cabaret and chanteuse, her shows are slightly mad; she takes on a fallen diva persona, smokes two cigarettes simultaneously and often gets male audience members onstage to ”tend” to her. Her voice is golden.

She’s bringing the cacophony of joy and theatre that is her live performance to the Malthouse next month, in a Christmas show called Apocalypse Meow. “It’s about the preciousness of life and what are we doing on this planet. It’s Christmassy for sure but it’s also about what we desire from the notion of celebration.

“I want it to be in the tradition of the ridiculous Christmas specials and pantos but, of course, I want it to be a little bit healing and activating, which is a kooky combination, but one lives in hope. I’m an optimist.”

With occasional collaborator Barry Humphries.

With occasional collaborator Barry Humphries.

Meow Meow appeared in the High Line festival David Bowie curated in 2007. Speaking about his line-up, the late, great artist said: “The point of the festival is not to dig out as many obscure and unknown acts as possible. It’s to put on what I would go and see. There are certain artists you just never miss; when they come into town you go and see them. That’s how I treat virtually all of the people that are on this.”

High praise indeed. As far back as she can remember, music has captivated Meow Meow – especially when it’s mixed with politics. “There’s something about the raw, the kitsch, but without the poignant it just doesn’t do it for me. I like music when it’s transcendent – that’s where spirituality is.”

She loves honouring the history of things – a trait shared by collaborator Lauderdale. “Because performance is so transient I’m always searching for the vestiges of things that I think are quite spiritual and sacred. Even performing at the Globe in London, the thing of the group dance at the end. There’s a point to this: you have the catharsis, you send it out to the gods and you put people back together. I do think that is part of the preciousness of being involved in music, it’s a quick way to connect people and it’s true as well. Like a heartbeat.”

Brecht is another obsession. Earlier this year, she performed in Change the World: Bertolt Brecht Songs and Poems for 2019 at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, alongside Ute Lemper, Camille O’Sullivan and Gavin Friday.

“It was the most diverse rendering of Brecht and I just absolutely bloody loved [it]. That was thrilling, watching this writing that I love so much. A lot of it was poetry as well. I feel like I accidentally have a Brechtian practice, it wasn’t by design.

“Sometimes I think showbusiness is ridiculous and then I think, no, it’s precious. I like layers of meaning in everything – because there are layers of meaning in everything.”

At Princeton University, there’s a wall of photographs of people who’ve performed there; when she joined the list, an image of Lily Tomlin caught her eye. “They had an amazing shot of her with her arms outstretched and I thought, that’s exactly how I feel when I am on stage. Jump into my arms, that’s what I want!”

It’s clear she thinks long and hard about what she does. Patty Griffin’s Be Careful is a favourite track – like Washington’s aforementioned tune, she sees it as a contemporary lullaby: Be careful how you bend me/ Be careful where you send me/ Careful how you end me/ Be careful with me.

“It’s about taking a breath and being careful. That’s about all we can ask as human beings. Being revolutionary is … is it just about being kind? Is that all it is?” she wonders. “Can we get through the noise enough to cherish the miracle of being on the planet?”

Apocalypse Meow: Crisis is born is at the Malthouse from November 7-24.

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