An Audience with Camille O’Sullivan

Last night I spent an amazing hour and a half in the company of Camille O’Sullivan. No it wasn’t a private audience, I was among many of her fans at Shaw Theatre where we were given, said Time Out: ‘A rare chance to chat with the internationally-acclaimed performer in an intimate setting. All proceeds go to the Mayor of Camden’s charity, The Roundhouse Trust.’

I wouldn’t usually write, or feel qualified to write, about music gigs, I leave that to authoritative authors like my friend Siân who does this brilliantly. But there is something rather unique about Camille, and this is what appeals to me as a writer, the element of storytelling, creating a character and questioning traditional notions of authorship, who is the author of the song? The writer of the lyrics, or the singer, whose performance provides form and dimension to the words on the page.

I first saw Camille perform Nick Cave’s God Is In The House on Later with Jules Holland. I was completely struck by her ability to inhabit the song, and every vowel and consonant was enunciated with a clarity and tone that was captivating.

As Camille herself made reference to on several occasions, the ‘audience with’ question and answer format didn’t sit comfortably with her. Unmasked and exposed, denied the characters that she inhabits when singing, Camille has a rather dotty ‘Mrs Doyle‘ like persona who has a girl-like charm, and sense of self-deprecation that made me feel frustrated for the ‘real’ Camille to present herself.

After a rousing and deeply emotional song about a sailor, a prostitute and a the narrator, Camille brought the house down, such was her emotional investment in all three characters, she felt as though she should end the gig there, but the audience who were lively, and to my surprise enthusiastically interactive (why should it surprise me, these were her fans!), would never have settled for one performance.

In a moment of dizzy stumbling Camille knocked over her wine glass and this faux drunkenness appeared to present itself in moments when she focused on the format of the evening and launched into songs that had been out of her repertoire for years and consequently lyrics were omitted and ad-libbed in a style that only Camille could pass of as humorous and completely charming.

A great evening, albeit a little akward in the Q&A phase, but sublime singing and performance, with a glass shattering end by Camille!

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