Reviewer: Katherine Kirwin
amid a stage of fairy lights, a lit-up paper gingerbread house, a glowing paper bunny, and dressed mannequins topped with animal masks, enters a chilled-out male trio on keys, drums and bass before the dramatic entrance of Camille O’Sullivan in a sequined red-cape. This is not a fairytale, this is not real life, this is the nether world of song and storytelling and the audience are in for an event.
Camille O’Sullivan, the French-Irish chanteuse, emerged many years ago as part of ‘The Famous Spiegeltent’ and La Clique before touring as a solo act. She has crafted an act which surprises and enchants, as she and her band (in her own words) ‘fall apart on stage before you all, singing the songs we love’. Her raspy voice, spiralling from breathy intimacy to raucous high notes, has considerable strength and skill. However, the true skill lies in O’Sullivan’s ability to story tell through songs we all know or recognise; she inhabits the world of the song and makes it alive in that moment between her and the audience.
The Carny Dream has a loose theme of ‘welcome to the circus’, with recorded snaps of ringmaster introductions segueing between songs, and seemingly the tightrope balance in life and love between safety and fragility. O’Sullivan’s rendition of Nick Cave’s into My Arms was heartbreakingly tender, it felt personal and yet a shared moment between performer and audience. Whereas Tom Waits’ Misery is the River of the World felt horribly relevant, distorted and violent in its rock rendition, particularly with O’Sullivan stomping the stage with a paper pig mask over her head throughout it. You forgive the predictability of a Bowie tribute because of the panache, glitter and soul O’Sullivan gives to every lyric and feeling within his songs.
The Carny Dream is like a theatrical rock, soulful cabaret act and a tour-de-force of showmanship and storytelling. Her style may not be to everyone’s liking, and a handful of people did leave, but those that surrender to the madness will have their minds and hearts opened to the magic of music and moved beyond words.
Reviewed on 13 March 2017 and tours until November 2017 | Image: Contributed