Cabaret Fringe Festival
La Bohème
Until 17 Jun 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

Nicole O’Rielley is a risk-taker; this is as obvious from her avant-garde, emotionally-raw vocals as it is from the fact that she didn’t pin her costume into place, diving headfirst into wardrobe malfunctions and self-deprecating jokes about her anatomy. While her patter could use some method and some measure, her songwriting skills and distinctive vocal style are enough to signal that there are big things in her future.

Advertised as “a one-woman celebration of honesty, melancholy and quirk”, “Publicly Private” is a collection of songs written and performed by O’Rielley, covering topics from chronic illness to love and sex. Although there is no clear narrative or theme to tie the show together, the songs and O’Rielley herself are largely enough to keep the show moving and keep the audience engaged (although, on the night of review, the audience was almost completely full of friends and family, so if they didn’t stay engaged there might be some tricky conversations to navigate later).

O’Rielley’s singing and writing styles lie somewhere between Kate Miller-Heidke and Regina Spektor, with all the dynamic pop and crazy intervals of the former combined with the throaty, stylised vocals of the latter. This style, full of jumps and screams and rapid changes in mood, requires an excellent sense of pitch and rhythm, both of which O’Rielley has in spades. Although the pronunciation jumps without necessity or reason between American, British and her natural Australian accent, on the whole her music and performance are hard to fault.

O’Reilley confesses to being preoccupied with her “aesthetic”, which is clear – from the floral headpiece to the vintage lampshades to the espresso martini she sips throughout the show, she is the embodiment of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl – like an Instagram filter come to life. The “manic” element is clear in her patter; while musically she is calculated and obviously well-rehearsed, her patter isn’t as polished as it should be. There are excellent bones and some hilarious stories, but whether it was because she was too relaxed being surrounded by family and friends or because she was nervous and giddy, she didn’t quite command the stage as strongly as she could have on the night of her premiere.

Although perhaps more gig than cabaret, Nicole O’Rielley’s “Publicly Private” is memorable and creative piece of work. Before her public performance becomes private once more, make sure to see it.