“We’ve laid the cables and the wires…” except that tonight, seemingly no one has. An embarrassing oversight means that Camille O’Sullivan’s familiar voice enters unamplified. Cue a girlish giggle, a bit of blarney that she clearly delights in and soon enough God is in the House, if not omnipotent, omitting the mixing desk on this occasion.
O’Sullivan, no stranger to the stage and especially not the Fringe, carries on unperturbed. This time she comes around to perform a set comprising of Nick Cave material, entirely from his Bad Seeds repertoire though not lacking in diversity of delivery. It is his more skeletal offerings though that lend themselves best to tonight’s stripped down arrangement of synth, guitar and drums, showing off O’Sullivan’s wide vocal range and not compromised by a PA system that struggles when the rafters are rocked. Into My Arms and (Are You) The One That I’ve been Waiting For? are allowed the space they deserve for their sublime phrasing bringing Cave’s profound lyrics to the fore. In between, we can hear a pin drop.
We are also treated to interstitial recordings; monologues of the man himself from his Secret Life… lectures and more recent movies, complementing O’Sullivan’s infectious Irish lilt. Pleasance abounds in the audience who can’t help but be affected by the warmth of our host, delightfully punctuating good vibes between Bad Seeds’ more violent numbers.
So we are dragged down Jubilee Street, unravelling towards a crescendo of writhing and transforming: “LOOK AT ME NOW!” O’Sullivan slaps the keyboard in an absence of Warren Ellis’ violin-vitriol. Similarly she swears and swaggers through Stagger Lee, a story steeped in its ‘bucket of blood’, not for the faint-hearted. First hand witnesses to the atrocities described within, the audience feel like we need a shower after this while O’Sullivan, “comfortable in character” she assures us, is nonetheless compelled to cross herself.
What better to follow than a spiritual spa for all our ears, cleansed with Sad Waters; stripped down and every bit as beautiful as Cave’s haunting original and the highlight of the night for this here humble reviewer.
O’Sullivan continues to interpret signs and catalogue from back in the Bad Seeds finest, though The Mercy Seat, never sedentary, seems unnecessarily hurried tonight. Throughout, O’Sullivan conducts the mixing desk to tweak the channels according to the song at hand. Red Right Hand replicates Mick Harvey’s guitar perfectly though other slightly too slick solos steal centre stage at times. O’Sullivan winces with us at the inadequate acoustics, continuing to wrestle with reverb from a system which “sounds like singing in a Cave”. She cringes, acknowledging an accidental pun; plenty of comedy elsewhere on the Fringe.
As a lullaby to keep the nightmares at bay we all jump aboard an acapella Ship Song whose refrain fades into final farewells and an encore of Skeleton Tree.
You can see Camille O‘Sullivan Sings Cave at the Pleasance Courtyard from 9th – 25th August (not 12th or 19th) at 21:15. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/