IN HER SHOES

Camille O’Sul­li­van’s home is taste­fully dec­o­rated with the para­pher­na­lia of her stage ca­reer, but her back­ground and ed­u­ca­tion in­formed the choice of the ac­tual house. Edited by Mary O’Sul­li­van. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - MY FAVOURITE ROOM -

These pic­tures show the home in Dublin 8 of Camille O’Sul­li­van. As can be seen, it’s a home that is full of ro­mance, sen­su­al­ity, fem­i­nin­ity and drama. These are qual­i­ties that you don’t nor­mally find in the home of an ar­chi­tect; ar­chi­tects, as reg­u­lar read­ers of My Favourite Room will know, tend to favour re­straint, straight lines and monochrome.

Yet, not only is Camille a fully qual­i­fied ar­chi­tect, she’s also won awards for her work in the field and has lec­tured to ar­chi­tec­tural stu­dents.

How­ever, as many will know, the raven-haired beauty is now more cel­e­brated the world over for her out­stand­ing abil­i­ties as a singer and in­ter­preter of the songs of Jac­ques Brel, Kurt Weill, Nick Cave and David Bowie, and she brings those very qual­i­ties that are ob­vi­ous in her home to her per­for­mances; she’s by turns sen­sual — to the point of raunchy — ro­man­tic, dra­matic and al­ways fem­i­nine.

Camille com­mands the stage and the screen so com­pletely that it’s hard to be­lieve that she ever did any­thing else apart from sing, yet it took a lifechang­ing event for her to sum­mon the courage to give up ar­chi­tec­ture, at which she ex­celled, and give her singing tal­ent a chance to shine.

Through­out her teenage years and even in col­lege, Camille — whose mother is French, while her fa­ther is Ir­ish — had al­ways per­formed in school dra­mas in her home town of Cork and in dram­soc in UCD, but even though many peo­ple told her she should go pro­fes­sional, she balked. “I didn’t have the balls, be­cause I wasn’t too sure I could stand in front of an au­di­ence all the time. It took for­ever to go on stage. I was set­ting up ob­sta­cles for my­self, ‘I didn’t train for it’, ‘My par­ents are go­ing to kill me’. End­less ex­cuses,” Camille says with a laugh, adding, “There’s never a right mo­ment. I don’t think it would have hap­pened un­less some­thing pretty big hap­pened in my life. I def­i­nitely would have stayed on the safer side of life.”

That big thing was a car ac­ci­dent, though ini­tially it was more about sur­vival. “The car ac­ci­dent was so men­tal,” she says. “It was learn­ing to walk again, use your hands again, ‘Can I paint again?’ ‘Can I draw again?,’ all those loves, and yet you’re out of it on mor­phine and you’re like, ‘Look at the lovely flow­ers’.”

How­ever, the year-long con­va­les­cence en­abled Camille to take stock of her life. “I’ve read re­cently that the clos­est you get to know­ing what you want to do with your life is when you’re clos­est to death. And I sup­pose it was a bit like that. I was forced to look at my­self in a re­ally dif­fer­ent way,” she says.

Tak­ing the first steps to a stage ca­reer weren’t so easy, but Camille says she had a lot of sup­port, in­clud­ing from her only sis­ter Vicky, a prop­erty banker, and her anx­ious par­ents, who in­tro­duced her in her child­hood to the kind of mu­sic she now per­forms. “My mum, I sup­pose it’s her French­ness, she was like, ‘We love you as par­ents and we think you’re good, but maybe we’re wrong and if they don’t come, we’ll still be there’,” Camille re­lates with a fond laugh, know­ing that they would of course have been there no mat­ter what hap­pened, not only be­cause they love her, but also be­cause they were risk-tak­ers in their day. “My dad had done a year of ar­chi­tec­ture, but gave it up to be­come a rac­ing driver. They met in Monte Carlo and then he be­came a pro­fes­sional sailor. He’s a prop­erty devel­oper too, so he did end up go­ing back to houses. They travel the world and are quite bo­hemian,” she ex­plains.

She also had Fear­gal Mur­ray, who has been her cre­ative part­ner since the be­gin­ning. “Fear­gal just said, ‘Choose a date, choose a venue’ and that’s how we started,” she says.

That was at the be­gin­ning of the mil­len­nium. It was a hard slog ini­tially, how­ever, Camille has grad­u­ally made her name. In con­ver­sa­tion, she con­stantly ques­tions her abil­ity, but it’s ob­vi­ous from her CV that she’s con­sid­ered a ma­jor tal­ent. She has ap­peared in films with Judi Dench and the late Bob Hoskins, is a reg­u­lar on Later . . . With Jools Hol­land and at the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val, and has toured with the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany in The Rape of Lu­crece, based on Shake­speare’s poem, de­vised by her­self and Fear­gal.

Look­ing back, she re­alises that while she loved her stud­ies, the real world of ar­chi­tec­ture was not for her. “Talk­ing to engi­neers, go­ing on site, that wasn’t me,” she says. How­ever, her ar­chi­tec­tural back­ground did come in handy when she se­lected the house she’d like to live in; she bought it — with her dad — in 2004. A Vic­to­rian red-brick ter­raced

‘I was see­ing only ob­sta­cles. “I didn’t train for it.” “My par­ents will kill me.” There‘s never a right time’

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