Camille O'Sullivan, The Roundhouse, London
Tuesday 20 January 2009
From the impressive list of five-star reviews on her posters, one would assume that Camille O'Sullivan had been bringing her own brand of cabaret to the British public for years. While the buzz around O'Sullivan might have been building since she took to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2007, this is her first full UK tour – a test not just for the songstress but for the nascent cabaret revival which she represents.
O'Sullivan's song-stories touch on many topics – from failed love affairs to the state of humanity – and are in turn sultry, melancholy and creepy. In "Look Mummy" she plays the role of a grown-up woman lamenting the death of her mother, singing the song in a childlike voice that is eerie and unsettling. For the most part this works brilliantly, but occasionally it can seem affected.
In addition to penning her own songs, O'Sullivan does brilliant dramatic interpretations of the works of other musicians, from David Bowie to Tom Waits. When she sings Nick Cave's "Little Water Song", it is not just another cover version; she plays the role of the woman who has been drowned by her lover to perfection. Hands raised above her head, her ghostly, reproachful voice echoes around the room, moving many audience members to tears. Similarly, her version of Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam" is brilliantly evocative, as she sways from side to side as if aboard the lilting deck of a ship while recounting sailors' exploits on shore.
As the show progresses, O'Sullivan shifts into a more low-key mode, seeming to relax into her act. At her best, her performance is a winning combination – part West End show, part comedy sketch, part glamorous burlesque act – and surely enough to convert a few people to cabaret.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
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