Camille O'Sullivan: Brel

There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe the great Camille O’Sullivan and her incredible interpretation of the songs of Jacques Brel. Her fierce performance of some of his best loved songs were more than just an ode to the Belgian singer songwriter, her unique style and schizophrenic leap between her many on-stage personas made this an unmatchable performance.

Each song was performed with such magnificence it was as though it was the show’s finale every time

Each song was performed with such magnificence it was as though it was the show’s finale every time. With so much energy and passion poured into each line, she had the audience in the palm of her hand and the band were absolutely sensational. Every member a virtuoso, it was a pleasure to listen to and credit is most certainly due to the saxophonist who also happened to be an excellent violinist and an expert at bowing the saw!

Camille is an extraordinary performer, her voice swings from raspy, to rock, to delicately sweet and her rampaging around the stage gave such presence that we could have watched her all night. Every time she paused to speak to the crowd a different side of her character appeared. At first she emerged as an innocent Irish girl who was humble and grateful to her audience for attending and then after pretending to throw her shoe at the crowd, removing most of her clothes, and pulling crazed faces as she sang Carousel, innocent became far from how she should be described. Yet still, her enduring charm continued to captivate the audience throughout and she graciously thanked her band at every opportunity.

Having performed the show in Brighton over a decade ago, a fact she often mentioned as she exhausted herself by the end of most songs, her love of Brel’s work and her dedication to doing them justice was obviously unwavering.

If you were unaware of Brel’s work before, this is a great interpretation. Particular highlights included Next and Amsterdam. A poetical reflection on the sordid lives of the sailors on leave in Amsterdam, Camille dramatically flounced around the stage, part acting out characters and part narrating the story of their follies. Next told of a virgin soldier whose first sexual encounter was in a seedy brothel during the war. A gritty and harrowing tale of a conscripted youth, conscripted into war and sexuality, Camille’s voice sang out his agonising cries in this absolutely breathtaking rendition.

On completing her closing number the audience leapt from their seats in applause and called for an encore, the perfect way to follow a fitting tribute to David Bowie, a Brel fan and an inspiration to O’Sullivan herself.

Reviews by Bethan Troakes

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The Blurb

Brighton favourite Camille is back with her critically-acclaimed new show, singing the songs of one of her greatest inspirations Jacques Brel, the master of emotional storytelling in song. "A masterclass in living a lyric - mesmerising" ***** (Mail on Sunday)