From the moment Sarah Tullamore took to the stage in her one woman show ‘London - Paris - Roam!’ at Wimbledon’s Time and Leisure Studio, we knew we were in for a fun and engaging evening. Grappling with gaffer tape and cardboard boxes labelled ‘throw’ and ‘keep’ whilst tripping over enormous Y fronts strewn across the floor, she hilariously embarked on just over an hour of very personal, anecdotal banter, poetry and song about 20 years in Paris, her failed relationship and decision to finally leave her beloved adopted city and embark on a new life. The opening song ‘A Woman Of A Certain Age’ immediately engaged the audience; whilst her strong, lyrical singing voice told us about her new-found identity as a “cool auntie /menopausal maniac who refuses to wear beige”.
Infusing a combination of song, poetry and audience interaction to tell her story, Tullamore’s performance style was undeniably effective in a show that sustained both energy and our attention. Plus it was brilliantly written: with witty, ironic lyrics that jumped out across the small studio space, breaking the fourth wall almost the minute the lights were down by inviting us to share her space, insights, heartaches and dilemmas (not least whether or not she holds on to her accumulated possessions of CDs without cases and various local memorabilia) ...with Japan, Italy and most of all Paris as her backdrop.
The show was predominantly a humorous and ironic love song to the ‘City Of Love’ which she very affectionately took more than a few jibes at. Especially funny was her take on what she termed “ ‘Paris Syndrome’: A kind of depression sustained by visitors due to the rudeness of the Parisians”. We learned about an impolite French waiter in Canada suing his employees for “discrimination against his culture” and, in a particularly witty scene, an arrogant waitress whose nonchalant response to being asked for the bill was simply “Count to 10, I’ll see you zen - perhaps!” The fact that this show apparently went down extremely well when actually performed in Paris, is testimony not only to the honest sharp insights of her writing, but the fact that it is packaged in a way that is sweet, engaging and not overly offensive.
There is no doubt that Tullimore is a consummate songstress, very skilfully supported throughout the show by pianist Jordan Clarke with whom she has a perceptively strong rapport. She has an impressive vocal range and operatic overtones that are soft enough not to overpower in this intimate studio space. We were also treated to her fabulous skills at impersonation, from the surly, chain-smoking french waitress to her “intensely laid-back” friend Petunia from Austraaaaalia. And thank goodness for Petunia who, after Sarah’s failed Parisian relationship, offered explanation by means of a Chinese Horoscope book (proving the blatant incompatibility of her: The Rabbit and him: The Rooster) and advice for “how to get away from the rabbit stew” by means of a visit to a Shamanic therapist in deepest Dorset. The audience revved up nicely at this point as the haunting diagnosis was revealed: “That I have become an exhausted grasshopper who has lost her bounce! I am in the nebulous zone - somewhere between Ariana Grande and Angela Lansbury!”
As a sort of a cross between an extended Victoria Wood sketch and Elizabeth Gilbert’s widely acclaimed book ‘Eat Pray Love’ I couldn’t help also feeling that there was something a little old fashioned and safe about this show. We were promised at the start there would be nothing ‘heavy’ for us to endure; except, perhaps a little less playing it safe (and definitely less standing by the stereotype of ‘women of a certain age’ of which many women I know are determined to avoid) would have given the show a bit more contemporary edge and depth. Nevertheless Tullamore showed herself to be a fine entertainer and not least, a lovely human being, which really shone through her very personal and highly engaging narrative.
Reviewer - Georgina Elliott
On - 24/1/19