Camille O’Sullivan is something of a Fringe institution. 2017 marks her 13th year returning to the annual arts festival and Where Are We Now? is as big, bold and beautiful as ever.
Taking place in The Beauty at Underbelly’s Circus Hub, Camille’s stage is fairly small and filled with instruments and assorted miscellany including a globe, a rabbit lamp and a dinosaur figurine. It’s a random assortment but it suits quirky Camille down to a tee. She arrives on stage from between the audience, walking slowly down the centre aisle dressed in a large red cape, looking like something between a glamorous witch and an unconventional widow. And a widow turns out not to be far off the mark as Camille tells us that this show is dedicated to two recently deceased artists, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. She tells us simply, “we won’t see their like again”.
The set then is peppered with exquisitely sung Bowie and Cohen songs and the greater theme of a world in distress, distress at the demise of great artists and the rise of hatred and right-wing politics. She gives an absolute belter of a performance of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide that’s passionately sung and is a worthy tribute to the late, great artist. She directly addresses the uncertain state of the world near the end of her set by playing Cohen’s The Future, cleverly combining it with a more recent song from his final album, You Want It Darker. It’s a chilling reminder that we’ve been through these kind of bad times before and that we’ll probably keep repeating these patterns. “Get ready for the future: it is murder.”
Of course, Camille is not alone on stage and special mention must be made for her band who play everything from the conventional piano to the rather less conventional musical saw. The band support Camille’s impressive vocals, complementing her sound and contributing backing vocals and impressive solos.
Camille puts everything into her performance, imbuing each song with passion and emotion; she’s a masterful storyteller and has the audience hanging on her every sound. A particularly powerful rendition of Marieke by Jacques Brel has Camille – and no doubt half the audience – in tears and it’s a beautiful, intimate thing to witness.
In this show we’re dealt a dark topic but in Camille’s hands we are rewarded with an hour and a half of pure escapism; Camille remains an unmissable legend of the Fringe.