Camille O'Sullivan The Carny Dream at Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows (Venue 360) is a show that takes you straight into the almost fantasy world of the carnival and the circus and the setting of the show inside the “Lafayette tent” is the perfect setting for this new show. Outside of a “performance tent” like this and onto a conventional stage, this show would just lose so much of its visual and emotional impact.
This is a carefully layered piece of work that is touching on genius at times, but if you are coming to this show expecting anything like Camille’s show last year of Jacques Brel songs and those gentle French chansons, then be prepared for something completely different...this show will be divisive, and you will either love this show or be at the opposite end of the emotional scale with it, but there will be no middle ground...Camille O’Sullivan is taking no prisoners with this new performance work. For myself, I loved it, and as I write this review, it becomes more obvious just how carefully structured this whole performance work is.
Carnivals with their sounds, bright lights, merry go rounds and mechanical horses to ride upon seem to have a very special place in the memories of Camille O’Sullivan, and this show is an immersion with her into that alternative world.
From the very beginning when you enter the space, the sounds being played are those of the circus, and as Camille enters from the rear of the tent towards the stage resplendent in a bright red cloak with inner illumination from lights looking like some mystical fortune teller, the story begins. This is a carefully woven story using songs chosen for their lyrics as much as their sound, and through the music of Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Oasis, David Bowie and others a story is woven that blends into one larger story picture.
Hugely imaginative use to songs and lyrics - PJ Harvey “Is That All There Is” and Goldfrapp “Utopia” to name but a few. At times the show reminded me of some elements of David Bowie performances as Ziggy Stardust.
Camille O’Sullivan is always fascinating to watch in any performance as she does not sing songs, but immerses herself into their lyrics and story, and separating the world of the song and the real world of Camille can be very difficult at times as the two blur so effortlessly into one.
If I could change one thing about this show, it would be to bring the volume levels down a little as this is a loud performance that at times could have been lower to allow the emotive performances that Camille can give on quieter songs more emphasis. Perhaps though that noise level was there to immerse us into that world of noise that you get from walking into a carnival space.
There are so many questions about this show that I would love to ask Camille, so many questions unanswered at the moment.
Review by Tom King