Monday, 3 July 2017

Where is Dramaturgy Now: Camille @ Edfringe 2017

(Bound & Gagged in association with Tim Whitehead)

Circus Hub
7:45pm (90mins)
Fri 4th – Sat 26th Aug (not 9th, 14th or 21st)

Book here

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

It’s two strands – one is my love for musicians that I was obsessed by when I was younger, like David Bowie and Leonard Cohan. Their passing had a massive effect on me and I’m looking at their work now, with a fresh perspective. At the same time, I’m looking at the world we live in right now. It’s turbulent and terrifying place to live thanks to Trump and Brexit. The world seems to have changed – it’s upside down. I came up with the name of the show by using the song title from David Bowie, Where Are We Now. Since 2016 things have got a bit rougher for all of us and the whole world in general. We’ve lost so many amazing artists in the fields of music, comedy, acting and writing – people who changed the world with their creative minds. 

This show is also just looking at the hope that there still is out there in this world and notion that you should live your life to the fullest even when all the craziness is happening around you.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yeah I really do think that it is a great way to create public discussion. I suppose it depends on what I do as a singer and performer – it’s always been a huge part of my show to be provocative. The shows that I’ve done over the years have all been political and enigmatic, so I’ve always been interested in meeting the audience after the evening is over to discuss what my songs mean to them and what’s thought provoking. 

I really love the feedback and hearing from people about what each song and my interpretation of the lyrics have meant to them. Sometimes people get things from what I do that I could never imagine and it helps get me thinking of new ways to look at a piece of music or how I perform something. But mixing light and dark together throughout my shows is very important to me. I think it’s so important because we’re used to looking at X Factor and generic music where you know where it’s going to end and what the goal is – commercial music that sells. The ones who are now challenging the public are the comedians and people who find new ways to make people look at life through new eyes. 

Nick Cave is still doing that with his music and lyrics. Leonard Cohen was still doing it until the day he died. For me, the joy of live performance is that it happens right there in the room so people have to engage with you and that’s still necessary.

How did you go about gathering the team for it? 

The performer in my shows is me. But I’ve gathered a new group of musicians who are at the top of their game. I’ve got a drummer who I’ve worked with before and who is brilliant at what he does. And also I have an amazing guitarist. But when we’re putting a show together I’m working with several musicians while I’m on my own at home and they’re in other parts of the world. So, basically I’m dictating things like lyrics and performance notes to them which makes it a lonely experience in that way. 

I’m the crazy lunatic on stage, but we’re part of a team, so I’m hoping to drag them on stage and let the audience see them more. In July we’re preparing for the Edinburgh Festival, so their roles get stronger and we work harder to get the show right for August. This show has such a strong theme, so the direction might need to come from me and therefore be more authentic for them to perform.

How did you become interested in making performance? 

It wasn’t the straight forward route. I was a painter to start with and then an architect before being a singer. I wanted to be a painter. I like the solitude and the peacefulness of it all, so God knows how I got to be a singer. But I go there in the end through my obsession with music that developed when I was younger and also performing with drama societies when I then went on to become an architect. What led to the change in careers, was that I had a really bad car crash and that taught me to not be scared of trying something that I really wanted to do. It made me see that life is short. It took something pretty massive to get me to leave the security of the life that I had. When that was done there was no turning back. It started very small and I suppose it was at that point but it led me into storytelling and then thinking ‘I’m not looking for a big fame, but I’d love to be a rock artist’. Strangely, I have ended up doing songs that are about the messages that are in my head and trying to get out. It’s a kind of therapy. Those songs are thought provoking and emotional. It helps to be obsessed by them so you can perform them over 20 years without them ever feeling stale. I have a great love for the songs that I perform. I’m singing them to myself more than everything when I’m on stage. I’m a full on performer on stage, but sometimes I’d rather the audience wasn’t watching because my performances are so personal. But to be honest, I’m drawn like a magnet to performing for people.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Variety is important to me, along with trying to see how the show should begin. I ask myself, ‘how do I bring the audience in from the start?’ I usually start quite quietly and then go into an explosion of song and dramatics. I also want to start shows with the lighter material so that I can go to the dark place and be unforgiving and then not hold back. As a musician I don’t want to hold back. The last show I did was all animal masks, animal noises, glitter and mirror balls. But this show should be more like hymns and just a lot more simple. For me, shows should be all about you being as normal as possible in front of the audience so that they feel the authenticity of my performance. Maybe wearing a sparkly jumpsuit is a good idea but it’s like thinking in 3D sometimes. I then go on to think how the song will end. Will it explode or slowly taper away? At the moment, I’m looking at a Radiohead song but I think am I crazy to try it, but then I have the ambition to find a way to make it my own. I’m terrified of falling on my face in front of an audience but the list keeps changing. The audience’s view of you is as important as how you see yourself, so you have to think how will the audience feel about that song and if I should perform it for them. If it moves me and brings something emotional out in me, then I can sell it to the audience. But equally, if it doesn’t move me then I won’t be able to sell it to the audience and it’s just a waste of my time and their time. Sometimes you sing something and you know it sounds like you’re faking it but you really want to make it work just so hard – that’s the time when you have to put your own feelings aside and think of the people you’re performing for.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Yes but I think it’s more specific than it’s ever been before. When we did the Dark Angel show, the title was dreamlike and I like to change who I am when I’m performing. I will do that again this time, but because I’ve given it a question mark at the end I have to choose songs that relate to that title. I’ve never done that with my show before and it’s exciting to be doing something different. People will know that we’re in a turbulent world at the moment and so I’m not going to do my usual show as a way of reflecting that. A lot of my shows are suitable for the Festival, but I’ve done them in Edinburgh before so I’m faced with having to do new songs this time around. This show is like the others in the way that it’s got to keep that one theme throughout and that’s a spiritual thing for me. I’m looking at the loss of the artists that I have loved and the fear that I feel and the anxiety about the world in general. I need to address that so there’s a truth in this show and I’ll be more Camille than ever. This show has to be as authentic and real because it’s closer to me than anything and I’d like to think that people in the audience will share their experiences as the show goes on.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope that the audience will get some kind of catharsis from this show and it will make them stop and think. My shows are about being human and kind and crazy, while finding ways to express yourself to the people you love and also to people you meet along the way. I hope people go away moved and feeling joyful after watching my performance, but hopefully not feeling it was too dark. When you think about Bob Dylan and Nick Cave and those types of artists, people feel like we’re sharing the journey of the performance with them. The world isn’t perfect and neither is our lives so there’s a crack in everything but the light gets in, which is where the best things come from. That’s what my show will be about.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

What I love in theatre performances in general is that it needs to make people questions things as a result. I’m an emotional person so that’s why I like to delve into matters of the heart and where we are in the world. I’m an eccentric and I like the bizarre things in the world, so I want to reflect all of that in the shows I do for people.

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