Changeling | Camille O’Sullivan

The Changeling | Camille O’SullivanLeft & Cover – Camille O’Sullivan. Photos – Jamie Williams

Camille O’Sullivan enters The Famous Spiegeltent resting her hand on the heads and shoulders of the audience as she passes, embracing them into her fold right from the beginning. She is a picture of elegance and composure standing onstage, hair in a chignon, a veil across her forehead and a silky black lace cape draped over her shoulders, like a painting of a Muse. She starts her show quietly, introspectively with Nick Cave’s deeply ironic, God is in the House, followed by a plaintive version of Gillian Welch’s Revelator.

Just when the audience thinks it has her measure and is settling in for a pretty serious evening, we discover we couldn’t be more wrong. O’Sullivan introduces herself. Beams at us. Makes jokes with the crowd. Completely disarms us. For all of her interest in the most poetic of song writers, there is not a whiff of pretentiousness about her. In fact she is shyish, funny, outrageous, uninhibited, with a voice as flexible as her repertoire is diverse.

She is a genuine chanteuse in that her repertoire comprises lyric focussed songs. O’Sullivan explains to her audience that this reflects her interest in character and storytelling, drawing material from the ranks of the greats: Jacques Brel, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Kirsty McColl. From one highly theatrical song to the next she likes to tell stories about the good, the bad, and all their complexities. O’Sullivan is superbly accomplished and yet has a spontaneity that allows her to be completely immersed in each of the songs and draw the audience along with her.

Her eclectic style ranges from rock to Indie to 1940s torch singer. One minute she is channelling the gravitas of Ute Lemper in a spine tingling version of Jacques Brel’s In the Port of Amsterdam and in Tom Waits’ God’s away on Business. The next she is hurling through Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, dispensing with the laid back satire of the original to deliver a brilliant, angry, full throttled, Janis Joplinesque version, her raspy rock tones reverberating through the tent.

It’s hard to pick the highlights of O’Sullivan’s show. The moment after you think that Amsterdam is her tour de force, she brings the house to absolute silence with a theatrically masterful Look Mummy, No Hands, supported by the minimalist tinkling piano of Musical Director, Feargal Murray. Next, O’Sullivan leads you down an entirely different musical path with an outrageous and raucous version of Kirsty MacColl’s, salsa inspired, In These Shoes? which is about as  far away from MacColl’s and Bette Midler’s more genteel versions as possible.

Having reached her musical climax, O’Sullivan brings the audience back to earth finishing with Leonard Cohen’s Anthem followed by a quiet, resonant version of Nick Cave’s elegiac The Ship Song for encore.

Camille O’Sullivan has been honing her cabaret skills for the last decade and it is easy to see why she is regularly one of the most popular performers at the Edinburgh Festival and the international festival circuit. Certainly, she is a wonderful choice for the Sydney Festival and this show is highly recommended.

Sydney Festival 2015
Camille O’Sullivan

Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent | Hyde Park North (entry near Archibald Fountain) Sydney
Dates: 8 – 18 January 2015
Tickets: Priority Entry $65 (15 minutes before showtime) | General Admission $55/$50

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