Edinburgh Festival Fringe music & spoken word reviews: Camille O'Sullivan: Dreaming | Darren McGarvey's The Social Distance Between Us

Our latest reviews round-up features a dark and intimate evening of songs by the likes of Bowie, Cave and Waits, and some powerful musings from Scottish author, activist and performer Darren McGarvey. Words by Fiona Shepherd and David Hepburn.


Camille O’Sullivan: Dreaming ****

Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 302)

Camille O'Sullivan: DreamingCamille O'Sullivan: Dreaming
Camille O'Sullivan: Dreaming

Intuitive diva that she is, Camille O’Sullivan returns to the Fringe not with a roar but a rasp, curating an intentionally quieter, intimate show with trusty pianist Feargal Murray, who is back at home in his alma mater. Now she’s here, she claims not to be so self-assured, that the show should be subtitled “the wheels are coming off”.

O’Sullivan hasn’t even put on her red dress properly, just sliding her arms into the sleeves - party at the front, sobriety at the back. Or it could just be her way of showing off some of the clothes, shoes and kitsch bric-a-brac – illuminated rabbits, dog masks - she bought during lockdown.

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She frets that she’s out of shape and “doesn’t even look like the poster anymore”. But if she really is that anxious, she covers well. The moon is projected on the back curtain but O’Sullivan ain’t howling. This year she’s letting it hang out in different way - overtly emotional, blowing kisses, declaring her love for the audience.

Much of the material comes from her preferred triumvirate of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and David Bowie. Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head is delivered with a drama Chris Martin could only wish for before she’s off the leash and out in the crowd for Cave’s Jubilee Street, backed by guitar and drums on tape.

She grabs a hula hoop – in tribute to her old pals La Clique or the goddess that is Grace Jones – and ends on her back with her silvery boots in the air before reining it back in on Dillie Keane’s kinda creepy Look Mummy No Hands, her ragged a cappella Port of Amsterdam and Friedrich Hollaender’s Weimar standard Münchhausen. Also new for this year: Bowie’s Quicksand.“We’ll be happier next year,” she promises/threatens. But would we want it any other way? Fiona Shepherd

Until 28 Aug


Darren McGarvey’s The Social Distance Between Us ***

The Stand’s New Town Theatre (Venue 7)

Essentially ‘An Audience With Darren McGarvey’, it’s testament to the growing popularity of the multitalented writer, social commentator and rapper that the opulent Grand Hall at the New Town Theatre has been booked for this mix of poetry, polemic, stand-up and Q&A.

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Launching with a powerful poem about society’s numerous inequalities, he’s keen to emphasise that success has not blunted his working class credentials, with “family funerals that feel like being backstage at Jeremy Kyle” and frustration at “still being told to talk properly” by his intellectual inferiors.

It’s remarkable that it’s barely five years since he became a “mid-level Scottish public figure” courtesy of the Orwell Prize-winning Poverty Safari. The triumphs and pitfalls of his ever-rising profile are addressed, often hilariously, as he’s ghosted by Paolo Nutini and Direct Messaged by the First Minister.

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A hugely impressive figure who is great company, his musings range from fatherhood to the current state of politics. Both Scottish and British Governments get it equally in the neck for using tribalism to deflect from their own shortcomings.

He admits that the show isn’t tightly structured and he’s right - with mid-set audience questions breaking up what is already a fractured hour bursting with ideas but lacking any clear through line. David Hepburn

Until 21 August

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