I met Ai­dan on a vol­canic moun­tain in Ice­land

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - INTERVIEW -

Camille O’sul­li­van tells Barry Egan about death by do­mes­tic­ity, moth­er­hood, her boyfriend Ai­dan Gillen, and how she is un­rav­el­ling all the time

‘IFIND only free­dom in the realms of ec­cen­tric­ity,” Camille O’sul­li­van’s hero David Bowie once said. Ec­cen­tric­ity and Camille are, of course, well known to each other. When she first moved to Dublin from her home in Cork af­ter qual­i­fy­ing as an ar­chi­tect in the early 1990s, her do­mes­tic ar­range­ments were a di­rect win­dow into her soul. “I had no ta­ble, no plates, a fork and a spoon,” she says. “I thought the whole thing of buy­ing stuff was al­most like be­ing mar­ried. And when I got my first ta­ble I cried be­cause I thought: ‘That’s it. I’m at­tached to a place’. My mum used to be dis­traught. ‘You live like a gypsy!’

“I’m a bit bet­ter now,” Camille says, adding that she has plates and a ta­ble at her home in Por­to­bello, “but I’m still a lit­tle bit the same. You don’t think of the nor­mal things. You think, ‘How many are go­ing to get this song, this show or this pro­duc­tion done?’”

Camille’s com­plex ec­cen­tric­ity also man­i­fests it­self when she builds gi­ant gin­ger­bread houses and other won­drous cre­ations at home for her young daugh­ter. “I made her a great Fer­ris wheel the other night. I will spend days on some­thing. I got the Fer­ris wheel mo­torised. It is that size,” she says show­ing me a video on her phone of the child play­ing with her Fer­ris wheel which was twice her size. ‘‘I want to make a much big­ger one for her. I have even started draw­ing the di­a­grams. She had her lit­tle friend ly­ing on the Fer­ris wheel this morn­ing. ‘Oh, it’s fall­ing,’ she said. ‘‘She is def­i­nitely my daugh­ter. Her friend had to fall off the Fer­ris wheel!” Camille hoots. “Ai­dan”, she says of her other half, ac­tor Ai­dan Gillen, “was laugh­ing be­cause he was go­ing away to do work and he went up to the liv­ing room to see it. He was like: ‘How did I miss that? It’s mas­sive!’”

Camille O’sul­li­van is a mas­sive enigma wrapped in a rid­dle, trapped in­side the body of an enor­mously charis­matic woman — “a kind of schiz­o­phrenic” half-french, half -Ir­ish, Protes­tant born in London and brought up in Pas­sage West in Co Cork by De­nis, an Ir­ish rac­ing driver who grew up in Eng­land, and Marie-rose, a French artist from Bordeaux. Adding to her al­lure is that Camille pos­sesses a par­tic­u­lar pen­chant for black hu­mour and blacker melan­choly; and can on oc­ca­sion belt out dark post-mod­ern cabaret num­bers on­stage like some ob­sessed but gor­geous god­dess from the Weimar Re­pub­lic.

“I’m sort­ing my life out on­stage,” she laughs.

Camille says that the lyric ‘There’s a crack in ev­ery­thing/that’s how the light gets in’ from Leonard Co­hen’s song An­them res­onates with her on many lev­els. She thinks that’s be­cause she “likes shar­ing the part of me that is un­rav­el­ling and f ****d up. I think peo­ple are con­nected to the part of them that isn’t per­fect, that is hu­man, that is vul­ner­a­ble, that is frag­ile — and fierce, and all those things,” Camille says, as ever, the words com­ing out of her in near-neu­rotic tor­rents.

You can see why she was cast to play Con­stance Markievicz in RTE’S Re­bel­lion se­ries in 2016 or why Yoko Ono chose Camille to per­form Dou­ble Fan­tasy live at Melt­down, at the Royal Fes­ti­val Hall, in London in 2013, along­side Patti Smith. Camille first re­alised she was like that in her teens when she “started get­ting shy about things. So I un­rav­elled pretty much from my teen years. I’m not say­ing that I don’t en­joy life to the fullest. I have a great laugh.”

Then, one day she con­cluded that the pri­mary thing that “makes you in­ter­est­ing on­stage as a per­former is the side of you that re­veals fragility. I don’t mean just soft­ness. I mean the dark and the light, def­i­nitely. Not tor­ment. There’s joy­ful­ness, too.”

Yet, she is more drawn to the dark side. “If you look at all the greats: Rach­mani­nov, Tchaikovsky, Hitch­cock, Tom Waits, Bowie, Brel, Beck­ett or Shake­speare...it all ends badly,” she ex­plains of the at­trac­tion of the less cheery side of life and artis­tic ex­pres­sion. “We all know there is go­ing to be strife and mur­der. And through that there is some cathar­tic thing what is it to be alive and be hu­man,” she adds, “and when some­body makes out that their life is Bo­toxed to within an inch and is per­fect, you feel a bit that you want to col­lapse on the street and cry. And you think, ‘How come I have this is­sue? Why do I have this side of me that has sad­ness?’ Sad­ness is an OK thing. Look at Leonard Co­hen. Peo­ple go to Shake­speare to feel alive. It holds a mir­ror up.”

I am cu­ri­ous about when, pre­cisely, Camille’s life is “f ****d-up” and “un­rav­el­ling”? “Now,” she laughs. “I’m un­rav­el­ling on­stage all the time. I think I live more prop­erly on­stage than I do in my own life.”

Fur­ther to her on­go­ing un­rav­el­ling, Camille is per­form­ing in Woyzeck in Win­ter, one of the high­lights of the Dublin Theatre Fes­ti­val, with Stephen Bren­nan, Peter Coo­nan, Barry Mcgovern, Ros­aleen Line­han among others at the Gai­ety. “It’s an old Buch­ner tale and Con­all Mor­ri­son, the di­rec­tor, came up with the idea of mix­ing Schu­bert’s Win­ter­reise with Woyzeck. It is ba­si­cally about the pres­sures that are put on by so­ci­ety un­til they un­ravel. I un­ravel in this hur­ri­cane sit­u­a­tion.”

“So,” she smiles, “it fol­lows well that I am suited to the part”.

Be that as it may, Camille is a pos­i­tively de­voted and in-the-mo­ment mother to her four-year-old daugh­ter with her ex, Mike Scott of The Water­boys. She came yes­ter­day to watch her mother in re­hearsals for Woyzeck in Win­ter. Fas­ci­nated by it all, the child wanted to step up onto the stage. At which point Camille thought: ‘Oh­my­god, don’t do this’.

“I don’t usu­ally bring her to my shows but she said, ‘Mama, I want a lit­tle mi­cro­phone’. Last week, she wanted to be a doc­tor. Now she wants to be a singer? I was like, what have I done?”

Camille and Mike Scott some­times put on lit­tle shows for their daugh­ter. “It is very nat­u­ral for us as a lit­tle co-par­ent­ing unit that Mike and I have great fun with our daugh­ter,” she says. “We do lit­tle songs for her and she sings them back to us. She has only re­cently start­ing tak­ing out a lit­tle gui­tar and a drum thing and she will sing along to it. It is all about death. ‘And then on Mon­day they die’ she sings… And I thought, ‘Oh­my­god!’”

Camille adds that her daugh­ter did say re­cently when they were at the beach, “This is the sea!” It wasn’t lost on the four-year-old child that one of her dad’s most cel­e­brated com­po­si­tions is This Is The Sea by his band The Water­boys.

“And then she said when we were at the sea that day — ‘I’m a Water­girl!’

“She was at her creche re­cently and ev­ery­body was per­form­ing their show and she didn’t say a word,” Camille con­tin­ues. “I was laugh­ing, look­ing at her, think­ing, ‘We’re singers and our own child is look­ing at her feet.’”

Camille can re­mem­ber be­ing in school in Cork “and be­ing quite shy.” “Some peo­ple talk more to cover their shy­ness. I know plenty of ac­tors and singers who are like that, and others who adore be­ing on­stage.”

Would she like her daugh­ter to fol­low in the mu­si­cal foot­steps of her par­ents?

“She can be what­ever she wants to be as long as she is happy and puts her heart into it.” Camille men­tions that she had a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with Mike where it was dis­cussed that they might write some mu­sic to­gether. “Grow­ing up I loved his mu­sic. It is bril­liant still to hear him sing, es­pe­cially when you know some­body is the fa­ther of your child. You talk to them and then they sing. He has an in­cred­i­ble voice. It is quite wild,” says Camille, who has an un­tamed voice on stage her­self, be­fore adding that Mike “would be very sup­port­ive of me. It is great that I turn to some­one who is so good in the busi­ness”. Camille says that Ai­dan was at the re­cent U2 con­cert in Dublin when he heard the open­ing of The Whole Of The Moon by The Water­boys — which came on be­fore U2’s ar­rival on­stage. “And Ai­dan said that all he could think of was my daugh­ter go­ing: ‘Isn’t that lovely?’ So

Camille O’sul­li­van plays the role of Marie in

Woyzeck in Win­ter

Mike Scott and Camille O’sul­li­van

Ai­dan Gillen

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.