As a victim of a hugely unfair patriarchal struggle, sculptor and artist Camille Claudel, (born in 1864) is subjected to imprisonment in a mental institute to live out her last 30 years. Claudel’s struggles (ignored by both her lover, the great sculptor Rodin, and her brother Paul) are beautifully captured by Polish artist and performer Kamila Klamut. Camille is a biographical account of Camille’s final years inside the asylum.
Through small fragments of letters; what little is left of her work and accounts from her contemporaries, pieces of Camille and her work are pieced together by Klamut. She perfectly reflects a woman who presented so much philosophical and intellectual clarity during even the darkest of times. Warped and suffering under the struggles of being institutionalised, Camille’s life is bare and frustrating – unlike the life that she deserved as a talented artist. Fragile yet strong, Klamut’s movement is quick and fierce.
Aiding Klamut’s outstanding performance is the carefully considered and complex lighting design by Bartosz Radziszewski. In a lecture room at Summerhall, the mood is dark and claustrophobic, creating small but significant silhouettes around the curves of Klamut’s small frame. With such beautiful precise movements and considerations with staging and choreography, Klamut quietly shines light on the power on such a significant life. Klamut’s presence is sensual and engaging, filling the venue with her wide eyed stare, and soft, commanding voice. With such an energetic and powerful ending, Klamut pays homage to a woman who struggled quietly within the confines of her mental instability, and the life she was forced to lead in consequence.
Camille is a wonderful glimpse into a woman ignored by the patriarchal canon of art history, ready to be re-written by the wonderful Klamut and her talented team. Camille is a real gem of a show, a biography made with such anger about a woman who’d been through a lifetime of pain and injustice. An absolute pleasure to watch, and a masterclass in physical theatre.
Camille is playing Summerhall until August 28.