Camille O’Sullivan: 10

Camille O’Sullivan: 10

by Ruth Thomson

Cabaret Queen Camille O’Sullivan seems to be significantly more mental than the last time I saw her. Admittedly that was a good four or five years ago and a lot can happen in that time. The daughter of an Irish racing driver and French artist, she’s a former award-winning architect and has survived a near fatal car crash – she is also a unique and compelling performer and you are never going to be bored in her presence.

It takes a while for her on stage persona to gel with the rest of the room – having arrived in typically theatrical garb (black cloak/silver sparkly boots) she quickly disrobes and begins her ‘get ready for some crazy shit’ type chat. In the sober Georgian splendour of Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms complete with civilised raked seating, this initially jars a little. In response to the face of a perturbed audience member in the front row, she vocalises his concerned thoughts – ‘this isn’t anything like the enigmatic poster Maureen’, before dismissing them – ‘sorry Hamish this is a third date, this is where the reality sets in’. I can only imagine he was terrified. For me the first half of the show was impinged by sartorial issues – shallow I know but upon previously mentioned disrobing Camille unfortunately looked a lot like a local branch manager for Nationwide – grey suit, tucked in shirt. As the evening proceeded I couldn’t help visualise said branch manager at the Christmas Party, getting absolutely wasted and having an actual nervous breakdown much to the mortification of all assembled.

Anyway – enough with the bitchy sniping! Because the most important stuff – the music – is incredible. Performances of Nick Cave’s God is in the House, Brel’s Amsterdam, Dillie Keane’s Look Mummy No Hands (which moves Camille to tears), and Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright all hit you right between the eyes – they’re so loaded with emotion, sincerity and style that it’s almost uncomfortable. The roller-coaster ride from inklings of cynicism to overwhelming admiration (with a few tears of my own along the way) speaks volumes for Camille’s power as a performer and if this, her 10th anniversary year at the Fringe, is anything to go by, it’s likely she’ll be selling out shows in Edinburgh for many years to come. Also top marks for the very good use of a hat as a glitter ball.


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