Camille O'Sullivan And Friends

 

Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dublin

Camille O'Sullivan does not perform just one cabaret show. In a sense, she performs every cabaret show, through a comprehensive retrospective that is consistently engaging and often enthralling .

Conducting a swift journey through the cabarets of the past century, O'Sullivan treats the audience to a performance by turns provocative and sardonic, humorous and desolate. Joining her band on the small corner stage of the cosy cafe, O'Sullivan peeled off a long coat to reveal her scarlet dress and gaudy fishnet stockings before Marlene Dietrich's Illusions reminded us that not all is what it seems.

A seamless blend of Dietrich, Lotte Lenya and Jacques Brel, among others, points to the changing face of cabaret, while O'Sullivan's visage moved from demurely attractive to archly expressive. Dietrich routines are underscored by slow-burning sensuality as she caresses a table top or cavorts on a chair. A sneering rendition of Friedrich Hollaender's The Kleptomaniac or Tom Lehrer's frighteningly funny The Masochism Tango shows O'Sullivan's love of characters, while her version of Eartha Kitt's AprΦs Moi bubbled with concealed daggers and honey-laced venom.

Beyond the risquΘ repertoire of the Weimar Republic, a deftly plotted show mined anguish from the burlesque. The grieving pessimism of Hollaender's deceptive Falling In Love Again or the forlorn Brel classic Ne Me Quitte Pas (wisely sung in alternating verses of French and English) infused the night with a gentle sadness and emphasised the isolation bestowed on the cabaret's lone singer.

O'Sullivan, however, is ably supported by a skilled and modest band and casually appearing guest singers. Smoky tunes are further flavoured by Kenneth Rice's nimble violin, R≤is∅n Lavery's boisterous accordion, Ewan Cowley's studied guitar and Simon Quigley's evocative piano. If the cramped cafe sadly forbids draping feather boas around the audience's necks, O'Sullivan still engages with an enrapturing performance and a voice that could melt mountains.