Camille O'Sullivan: The Carny Dream
  • By Pete Shaw
  • |
  • 12th Aug 2016
  • |
  • ★★★★★

I imagine Camille O’Sullivan has been called an Irish Chanteuse in reviews more times that you’ve had a flyer thrust at you on the Mile. So let’s just put it like this. Camille is a fecking good singer.

An utterly brilliant night of music in the hands of a performer that is at the top of her game.

The Lafayette is an extra-large Spiegeltent and the ideal setting for O’Sullivan’s quirky backdrop. Strings of coloured lights entwine animal mannequins and upstage there’s a Hansel & Gretel fairy cottage with an illuminated bunny keeping guard. O’Sullivan enters from the back of the auditorium in a sequined Red Riding Hood cape. This isn’t just a show, it’s an event.

O’Sullivan’s vocals can be described as a mixture of commanding rock and breathy whisper. She inhabits songs in such a way that she could almost be making love to them. She writhes with the mic as each note is uttered; sometimes barely audibly, but you know that it’s there. Other times you hear the beauty of Bette Midler and the rawness of Chrissie Hynde. O’Sullivan’s vocals are multi-dimensional and enthralling.

Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film) is the first song, suitably setting the tone of the night. As atmospheric as the staging, O’Sullivan adds spine-tingling emotion to the lyrics as they ooze across the Spiegeltent. She slips from her red cape to reveal another black one beneath, and then another bedecked with fairy lights beneath that. As she launches into Is That All There Is?, a hit for Peggy Lee back in the late 60s, a swing appears from the top of the tent and we get the first glimpse of O’Sullivan’s fragility “Ah, I’m afraid of heights”; but she swings and spins above the heads of the auditorium all the same, showering them with glitter.

O’Sullivan admits the songs may sound suicidal, but she’s “not ready for the final disappointment” just yet, then gives us Dylan’s A Simple Twist Of Fate followed by more Radiohead with Motion Picture Soundtrack whilst she’s hugging a mirrorball with child-like fascination of the captured rays of light.

Tom Waits’ Misery is the River of the World marks a turning point in the show as we get into more familiar O’Sullivan territory. The Oasis hit, and Royale Family theme tune, Half The World Away leads to Dillie Keane’s Look Mummy (No Hands) and into the final few songs with Brel’s Amsterdam and a love letter to David Bowie with two tracks, Where Are We Now? and the brilliantly delivered Five Years.

O’Sullivan chats casually with the audience and someone asks “what is your voice like off the mic?”, to which she obliges with an impromptu unamplified a cappella. She admits she’s now over time, but doesn’t leave before a tribute to Prince with Purple Rain and finishing with the haunting Billy Joel Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel).

Camille O’Sullivan can seem to do no wrong. An utterly brilliant night of music in the hands of a performer that is at the top of her game.

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Reviews by Pete Shaw

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The Blurb

'Queen of the Fringe' (BBC) premieres new show: Dark, light, dreams, circus. Singing Cave, Bowie, Brel, Arcade Fire, Radiohead. Chameleon like, her five-star sell-out performances include Sydney Opera House, Royal Festival Hall, La Clique, Roundhouse, Later with Jools Holland (BBC) and a Herald Angel award for her RSC solo performance, Lucrece. Sexy, fierce and mesmerizing, Camille transforms each song into an intense, emotional experience. Expect joy and pure passion. 'A major star' ***** (Scotsman). 'Masterclass in living a lyric – mesmerising' ***** (Mail on Sunday). 'Exceptional voice' ***** (Time Out). 'Hypnotic' ***** (Independent).

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