Review: An Audience with Milly-Liu, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Our roving reviewer Kate Griffin reviews An Audience with Milly-Liu starring Francois Pandolfo at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre ahead of its Edinburgh Fringe premiere!

“As Sheba said to me in a seedy hotel room in Pyle…” Milly-Liu is spilling the tea. And her guts.Life as a cat actor has not been kind to this feline Norma Desmond. The showbiz world has chewed her up and coughed her out like a hairball. But now she has stories to tell about her life in the spotlight, whether you’re ready to hear them or not.

Let’s be clear: An Audience with Milly-Liu is not for the faint of heart or easily offended. This is most definitely late-night, adult material. Performer François Pandolfo seems to have gone through the elements that get a show classed as R-rated and ticked them off like a shopping list. Drug references? Check. Sexual content? Check. Strong language? You’re going to need a bigger dictionary.

It’s also not the kind of show where you can sit at a comfortable distance from the action and tuck into a box of Matchmakers. Fourth wall? Never heard of her. Milly-Liu stalks the aisles, occasionally dragging some helpless sod into the limelight like a petrified mouse. Pet owners who are used to getting an early-morning cat backside in the face may find some aspects of tonight’s performance…strangely familiar.

An Audience with Milly-Liu will preview at Sherman Theatre (27-30 July) before its Edinburgh Fringe run at the Pleasance (3 – 29 August).

With all these caveats duly in place, this is a fantastic performance. It takes a completely off-the-wall concept and makes it strangely believable, as Milly-Liu’s life story sheds an uncomfortable light on the reality of exploitation in the entertainment world. There are some moments of real sadness and anger amidst the high camp and claws-out cattiness. But mostly we’re here for the humour. Milly-Liu’s tales of famous cats will have you gasping. (I certainly can’t see Bagpuss in the same way ever again.)

The show is dedicated to the memory of the real Milly, or MeuwLling, a furry friend who passed away some years ago. It is clear from the level of hilarious detail in the performance that the show has been created by people who really see cats.

This show is so original that it’s hard to know what to make of it. Luckily, we spotted actor Mali Ann Rees in the crowd and asked for her take. She told Ents South Wales: “It was uncomfortable in the best possible way. I laughed, I cried, I purred.” Other comments overheard through unsubtle eavesdropping on audience members included: “My face is hurting from laughing so much!” and “As a cat person, I’ve never seen a better depiction of a cat by a human.”  

They’re not wrong. You have now been thoroughly warned about the more outrageous aspects of An Audience with Milly-Liu, but if you can cope with that, it’s a seriously enjoyable purr-formance. Catch it before it takes the Edinburgh Fringe by storm!  

  • An Audience with Milly-Liu is at the Sherman Theatre 27th-30th July.
  • Then the show will be at the Edinburgh Festival from 3rd-29th August. More details, including a crowdfunder for Edinburgh costs, here.

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