Fringe Experiences: Camille O’Sullivan

I didn’t make to very much in this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, but…

Camille O’Sullivan Sings Brel:
The Sugar Club, Leeson St. Dublin 2, April 18th 2004

I did make it to see The Black Angel, in the Spiegeltent in Wolfe Tone Square, Dublin 1. The show was put together for a one-night-only performance by Camille O’Sullivan and her band.
I hadn’t seen Camille playing in several years. Once a member of Klub Kabaret – the outfit responsible for turning me on to Weimar cabaret and the music of Kurt Well – the played weekend gigs in Dublin. As the wormwood took its weekly hold of the audience at Club Absinthe, the four vocalists would trounce their way through Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.
Since then, she’s released A Little Yearning, an album of songs by Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Weill, as well as Berlin cabaret composers like Hollander, Eisler and Weill.
The Spiegeltent – an ancient mirrored tent combining fairground gothic with art deco chic, is sitting in the improbable location of Wolfe Tone Square on Jervis St., Dublin 1. This one is old… Marlene Dietrich allegedly performed in it.
It’s packed out, and there’s a long queue for the supply of Weisbier being distributed at the bar. A complete mishmash of people are present. Blue-rinsed mobs of matrons out for a night on the town. Stringy lank-haired poet-types in mismatched suits and wide lapels. Some ladies have dressed up for the night, boots, fishnets, slashes of red lipstick.
The band appear… start building up a twisted melody… Camille arrives, raven hair bound back, wrapped up in a black coat, croons her way through a some tense numbers, I don’t know all the songs. Her performance tends to be more than musical – she plays up the diva/vamp conceit perfectly, though seems a little at ease speaking to the audience. Several of her numbers come from Brecht’s Threepenny OperaSolomon Song, a frightening version of Mac the Knife (sung mostly in German) and What Keeps Mankind Alive (‘Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts!’).
Early on, she does Frederic Hollander’s Munchausen, a satire on the rise of Nazism and ignorance of reality in Weimar-era Germany. It’s got that chorus -‘Liar, Liar, Liar’. Haunting and utopian. There’s a banging version of Tom Waits’ Misery is the River of the World, from his recent Bloody Money (‘The devil knows the bible like the back of his hand!’).
Camille vanishes off stage, appears back in hotpants and fishnets, for I Am A Vamp, a self-referential satire about the prevalence of dark erotica, gold diggers and sexual ambiguity of old Berlin.
‘I bite my men and suck them dry… and then I bake them in a pie!’
Later, her hair comes down, and she grinds through the incumbent violence of Nick Cave’s Mercy Seat

    I hear stories from the chamber
    How Christ was born into a manger
    And like some ragged stranger
    Died upon the cross
    And might I say it seems so fitting in its way
    He was a carpenter by trade
    Or at least that’s what I’m told

Next, there’s that slow, slow, slow version of Mackie The Knife. This isn’t the swinging Sinatra/Darin travesty – this is the original, horrific version from The Threepenny Opera, and performed in German.

    And the child bride, in her nighty
    Whose assailant’s still at large
    Violated in her slumbers
    Macky how much did you charge?

Then it’s back to some Nick Cave, for People Ain’t No Good

    That people they just ain’t no good
    It ain’t that in their hearts they’re bad
    They can comfort you, some even try
    They nurse you when you’re ill of health
    They bury you when you go and die
    It ain’t that in their hearts they’re bad
    They’d stick by you if they could
    But that’s just bullshit
    People just ain’t no good

Each song is performed in Camille’s inimitable style; raunchy, dangerously fragile, and laced with a dark erotica. She makes the songs her own, in some cases expressing the dark humour or sense of longing more eloquently than the original artist ever could.
I wonder is she due to record any material of her own?
Camille O’Sullivan’s website > >

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.