Irish chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan has been steadily building a fan base in Melbourne ever since her popular appearances in saucy variety show La Clique about five years ago. She’s not your average cabaret diva, favoring the melancholy of Nick Cave and Tom Waits over more garden variety cabaret standards (not that she’s averse to channeling female legends like Edith Piaf when it strikes her fancy).
First and foremost she is, by her own admission, a story teller and she does this through her interpretations of songs, both heavy and light. One minute she’s all rock-n-roll, the next moment she’s in the Weimar era and after that, she goes country western. Her range is extraordinary, especially as she sings in English, German and French and then chats in her endearing Irish brogue.
Dark Angel is her current show. It’s slick, multi-textured, heart-felt, with O’Sullivan revealing some things of herself but also very much sustaining a performance persona. She’s the crazy Irish lass, more fond of the red wine than the water, into playing her wind chimes when energy lulls and unabashed about the gaping run in her fishnet stockings, relieved even, that it’s happened so early in the show. She oscillates between introspective, bittersweet calm for Look Mummy No Hands and instigating compete chaos, banging her bottom on the piano and whirling herself around until she’s panting on the floor for her take on David Bowie’s Rock-n- Roll Suicide. There’s also everything in between, from a cover of Waits’ Misery Is the River of the World to an extended encore which puts Jacques Brel alongside Cave.
This rollercoaster of a show runs for over two hours and O’Sullivan manages to sustain all of its emotional peaks and valleys. Because she is so skilled at evoking a state of being by distilling the essence of the songs through her vocal range and physicality, their meaning translates even when lyrics are not understood. This is also in great part to her “boys,” five Melbourne musicians who help bring her songs to fulfillment. While saxophonist Phil Bywater is the most prominent, with several solos throughout the show, double bassist Phil McLeod, drummer Fabian Hevia, guitarist Mark Finisterer and pianist Jex Saaralhart all have chances to present as individuals.
At the end of the day though, cabaret is about the star and Dark Angel is very much a reflection of O’Sullivan and her penchant for all things bittersweet, slightly twisted, darkly sexy and emotionally revealing.
The Dark Angel
Venue: Fairfax Studio | the Arts Centre, Melbourne
Dates: 16 - 17 Nov 2009
Tickets: Adult: $59.90 | Concession: $50
Bookings: 1300 182 183