“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
These lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, a song that Camille O’Sullivan performed in her new show, Where Are We Now? summed up the evening for me.
Renowned, prolific, O’Sullivan is one that sells out frequently at the Fringe, so I took myself there to see precisely what all the fuss was about. Her show was about the songs of Bowie, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead and included a PJ Harvey number, all while throwing out questions about where we’ve found ourselves today.
Born in London to a French mother and Irish father, O’Sullivan moved to Cork, Ireland when she was a child. Prior to running away with the ‘circus’ – ‘The Famous Spiegeltent’ and La Clique – and touring the world, she took a circuitous route to becoming a performer. As much raconteur as a singer, O’Sullivan has an attained an international reputation for her renditions of the songs of Jacques Brel, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Kurt Weill and shows a boldness in her work with her affecting performances.
Beginning her set with Radiohead’s No Surprises, and concluding with Nick Cave’s The Ship Song, there is clearly a dark thread running through the Circus Hub (an ideal setting for her), whilst O’Sullivan’s Irish allure balances this darkness. A sold out show, expectedly, she played some of my favourite reflective songs, including Karma Police, Rock n Roll Suicide and Let England Shake. Not always entirely well, admittedly – but with a hint of charisma that rendered them entertaining.
As I insinuated before, the flaws in this performance, which she made no effort to hide, made it all the more enjoyable. The imperfections and blemishes made the whole endeavor a very human and personal experience, qualities which I am sure many feel are key to the Edinburgh Festival. While not the most original concept in this current climate, the show highlighted frustrations many of us are feeling right now with the discord at the centre of contemporary politics; a general sense of malaise that also seemed to resonate in the recent passing of Bowie and Cohen.
Singing an agreeably curated and unexpected selection of tracks, Camille O’Sullivan performed well with the aid of her artistic band, the lass of which was a dab hand at saxophone, violin, guitar and many other instruments. Fiercely human, witty and captivating, O’Sullivan transformed each song into a theatrical experience, as is her way, with no less than a …Meow!
At least once, yes.
Camille O’Sullivan’s Where Are We Now? runs until 26th August at Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows, 19:45