Camille O’Sullivan

I recently went to the Apollo theatre in London to see Camille O’Sullivan.  She is stunning.

If you’ve not heard of her, she is a half-French, half-Irish ex-architect chanteuse. She takes songs from writers who are master storytellers (Waits, Brel, Cave, Bowie, Kirsty MacColl) and dramatises them through her performance.  If I was a genre sort of person I guess I would tag her as Dark Cabaret.

She toured last year with her ‘Dark Angel’ show, where I first saw her, in a smaller venue, and spent an evening totally spellbound and entranced by her.  So I booked tickets to her run in the West End as a joint Christmas present for myself and my daughter.

The Apollo is a beautiful setting, and the stage was set, as previously, with a mix of hanging twinkling dresses, a sparkly swing, groups of glowing candles and homely touches such as the crocheted blanked lying on the spindly pine high-backed chair.

Camille came in through the back of the theatre, carrying a candle and leading her band up the aisle, onto the stage.  The evening started off with a powerful interpretation of David Bowie’s Five Years.

She is so engaging that once she was up on stage, any thoughts of making a note of the playlist or even capturing the odd moment on film was forgotten, but highlights I recall are the tragically beautiful ‘Little Water Song’ (orig Nick Cave), a scathing ‘Rock’n’roll Suicide’ (orig David Bowie) – my daughter’s favourite, a rousing ‘In These Shoes?’ (orig Kirsty MacColl) and an explosive version of Jacques Brel’s ‘Amsterdam’, which was so authentically wretched that it left Camille in a heap on the floor and my daughter feeling uncomfortable “like I was watching someone’s mental breakdown”.

Last time I saw her, I was moved to tears by her unaccompanied singing of Marieke (another Brel song) as an encore, but this time she seemed distracted, possibly because there seemed to be a bit of a commotion backstage.  Disappointing, but overall a wonderful evening and Camille has a new convert.