Ireland lives on

Ancient Rain (Paul Kelly & Camille O’Sullivan)

QPAC, Concert Hall

June 13

Between Australian music legend and poet laureate Paul Kelly and Irish chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan, there is a proud Irish heritage, so it is appropriate that it is on WB Yeats’ birthday that they take Brisbane audiences on a journey through Irish poetry in “Ancient Rain”. The show, which combines original songs and music, together with spoken word, was inspired by more than a century of Irish writing and serves as both a reminder of its emotive poetry and range of themes.

It is a darkly beautiful show as it contrasts some of the most important events of Irish history, from the potato famine of the 1800s to the Easter Rising of last century with illumination of the evocative language of descriptions of lines like ‘October coloured weather’ which will linger long after shared. The lush musical arrangements transform the poetry into living art. In collaboration with composer Feargal Murray, Kelly and Sullivan have thread together a tapestry of tender moments of profound sadness at loss of language and country, but also celebration of survival. And lighting complements the mood and considered aesthetics of the elemental sounds of wind and thunder and the sensitive harmonies of the backing band, adding a theatrical feel to the show.

Kelly has a wonderful stage presence (as the country’s best balladeer with recognisable Aussie sounds, his vocals don’t always suit, but his voice is naturally suited to storytelling) and O’Sullivan is a compelling performer, whether in earthy or ethereal voice, meaning that together they are an irresistible combination, in complete command of the material. In Michael Hartnett’s ‘English Part Seven’, O’Sullivan soars in sing of ‘the perfect language to sell pigs in’, while in Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’ she tantalises with a husky voice in but a whisper. But it is Paula Meeham’s heartbreaking ‘The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks’ that represents the show’s pinnacle, at the end of Act One, as, draped in red veil she tells musical tale of the statue of the Virgin Mary, at whose feet a teenage girl gives birth before dying with her child.

“Ancient Rain” is a powerful project from two acclaimed performers that makes Irish history live again. While its tales are dark and melancholic in their heartache, they are very human stories, which means that everyone will have their own connection to its musical storytelling as they appreciate anew its old tales of war, rebellion and longing for freedom.

 Photos c/o – David James McCarthy and Sarah Walker


Accents, antics and amazing vocals

Changeling (Camille O’Sullivan)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

January 30 – 31


Irish interpretative singer Camille O’Sullivan is a bit of a nutbag, in an endearing, quirky, Bjork type way. This is seen not only in the accents and antics of her “Changeling” cabaret show, but its song choice and pacing. From its quiet, introductory strains of Nick Cave’s introspective ‘God is in the House’ to her dramatic, yet hilarious version of Tom Wait’s ‘God’s Away On Business’, it is clear that this is not your usual cabaret, but something entirely unconventional, unique and totally unforgettable.

O’Sullivan, who appears at the Edinburgh Festival most years to test out new material for her extensive touring schedule, often interprets male voices, with the songs of Tom Waits and Nick Cave, amongst others, prominent among her repertoire. And in doing so, she does not disappoint, taking audience members to new places with old favourites. Indeed, her show ending and show stopping ‘The Ship Song’ serves as an absolute highlight, including as it does, an audience sing-a-long of this soft and sexy ballad.

This is perhaps as conventional as the show gets. An amazing acapella rendition of Jacques Brel’s ‘Amsterdam’, has the audience is awed silence, such is the power of O’Sullivan’s beguiling, husky theatrical voice. And luscious lighting serves only to complement her sublime sound, enticing listeners to sit back and enjoy the ride. Each song is a journey, as is the show itself, as she sheds costumes to reinvent her persona for each charismatic audience interaction. “Changeling” is the most multi-faceted of cabarets – beautiful, bizarre and guaranteed to have you mischievously meowing all the way home, even if you are dog person.

Photo c/o –