From Radiohead To Bowie: Camille O'Sullivan Discusses The Carney Dream
French-Irish songstress and actress Camille O’Sullivan will perform her new show The Carny Dream at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall this week.
Camille first stormed the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 12 years ago with her own show and as one of the original stars of Olivier Award Winning La Clique. One of Ireland’s most exciting performers Camille has a reputation for her dramatic interpretations of the narrative songs of Nick Cave, Brel, Waits, Bowie and Radiohead.
Andy Howells recently put questions to Camille
What attracted you to becoming a performance artist?
I think the thing that most attracted me to becoming a performer was probably having watched old movies from the 40s and 50s when I was growing up and seeing people like Eva Gardner and Judy Garland just being so magical on screen. And then later David Bowie and Pink Floyd with their music and performances too. I remember that it made me want to dance and express my emotions through movement and song. I didn’t really think about performing in front of anyone else, but with time it became like oxygen and I needed it. When I was studying architecture at University, then I did also did some theatre and just loved to express myself. Then when I was in a pretty serious car accident, I realised that life is just too short not to be doing something that you’re passionate about if you have the chance, so that’s when I really made the crossover into performing.
You’re bringing the Carny Dream to Cardiff soon – can you tell us about the show and what inspired it?
It’s songs by artists including Nick Cave and Radiohead and there’s a love letter to David Bowie at the end of the show. It’s based around my love and fascination of carnivals and shows – it’s pretty much like a crazy and vivid dream and really I’m living a dream up on stage by singing these songs. It’s full of really emotional songs and I’m being a chameleon on stage to become different people with each song. I love story telling with lots of rock and roll and drama and emotional and theatrical. I love fairy tales and darkness and the show goes from being enigmatic to bonkers to crazy, so I suppose there’s always a surreal quality to the show and it goes from dark to light, laughter to crying. It’s a really surreal world onstage with ginger bread houses and lighting. It’s like being a child going to a circus – I want to recreate the magic.
How well has the show been received so far?
It’s been really well received and that makes me so proud – A lot of people love it and when I’m meeting people after the show people say to me that it’s the best show they’ve seen me do. People enjoy the magical world that I create with the staging and the beautiful lighting and the music and my performances. And they also seem to enjoy the bonkers world that I put into the show each night too. Audiences really respond so well to what I’m doing and that makes the show what it is. I put in circus aspects to bring the whole thing into a kind of dream world. People just seem to say how I’ve moved them with the show and how I’ve interpreted certain songs that maybe are one of their favourite tracks but then I’ve created something new around it that they thankfully enjoy for what it is. For each show, the band and myself all come to try our best and I totally try to live in the moment of that song and inhabit the worlds that have been formed by the words and music in each piece of music. It’s lovely to hear that people are moved. People love the whole thing we do about Bowie as well as the ‘Where Are We Now?’ moment of the show. I’m a music lover so I love singing and it’s lovely to see new people saying they’ve never seen anything like it before as that means the world to me.
How has the show developed as you have been touring with it?
The show changes constantly and we have changed the set through the tour and developed in different ways. I always pick up on fine details of each performance and how the audience reacts to certain things, so for me it’s about being very present and in the moment of each performance. The guys I’m on stage with are amazing and then we refocus before going back into the gig. The links of wind and bells and music and atmosphere all come together to help make a theatrical moment of something. There’s are lovely things with the lighting that we’ve introduced inside the gingerbread house to create finer details of the effect of it being a Circus for Adults. I’ve started doing an Irish dancing moment during the show as well. I was wondering why I do that, but it’s good to be uninhibited and be more confident while on stage, so that people get into the music and the shows get better and better as we settle in to what we’re doing.
What can audiences expect from your performance?
There’s Radiohead, Exit Music For A Film, Utopia by Goldfrapp, Is That All There is by Peggy Lee, Ship Song by Nick Cave, Black Star by David Bowie – I perform some songs from his latest album and some old favourites – there’s Look Mummy No Hands and Simple Twist of Fate by Bob Dylan. They are songs that I’m obsessed with listening to myself to the point that I need to go out and sing them, I choose songs that have variation in them. I show vulnerability in one, anger in another, femme fatale in another. No show is the same and I bring people on a different journey. I can go to a dark place and then a funny place. I love fairy tales and darkness and the show goes from being enigmatic to bonkers to crazy, so I suppose there’s always a surreal quality to the show and it goes from dark to light, laughter to crying. It’s a really surreal world onstage with ginger bread houses and lighting. It’s like being a child going to a circus – I want to recreate the magic.
Looking forwards are you involved or working on any further projects?
After the UK tour is over, I do another tour in Australia and also a show with Paul Kelly, we wrote a musical together called Ancient Rain. Then I do a theatre show too, but I can’t say too much about that just now. And I’ll be doing the music of Jim Jarmusch in the Barbican. I’ll also be release the CD of the live show that I did at the Wilton Music Hall.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
The best place to find out more is to go to www.camilleosullivan.com but there’s also a Youtube page as well so people can see all the different songs I do. I always say that it’s worth checking out about eight songs, because they’re all so different and it can take up to five songs to really get what I do.
- Camille O’Sullivan will be at The St. David’s Hall in Cardiff on March 23. For tickets and more information visit: www.camilleosullivan.com or stdavidshallcardiff.com