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Review of London – Paris – Roam! at Tristan Bates Theatre

London - Paris - Roam!The programme mentions Sarah Tullamore (who plays herself) having “lived in Japan” but only a fleeting reference, if I recall correctly, is made to that aspect of her life in the show London – Paris – Roam!, despite being an “account of her globetrotting life so far”. There is little mention of family, either, though I would reasonably assume from the personal details the audience is supplied with that she wasn’t the sort of person who ever got stuck / blessed (delete as appropriate) with a marriage and a mortgage. She moves on from Paris almost as quickly as she settled in some twenty years before. But with that length of time domiciled in France, it seemed fair for the show to dedicate more detail to French customs and cuisine than any other country.

A comfortable and enticing introductory opening number acts as a sort of icebreaker, in which the fourth wall is gently taken down, and left dismantled for the duration of the show. Much of the banter is either checking that the audience is all right, or else confirming that we’re still following what’s going on.

Her moving out of her Paris apartment is used as the backdrop to the show, in which she reminisces, through a combination of song and spoken word, about her past experiences. One box is labelled ‘To Keep’, another ‘To Throw’ – which, without giving it all away, is not quite the same as actually throwing away anything.

Tullamore has a smooth and pleasant singing vocal, and asserts the sort of soft humour that befits, in her own words, women “of a certain age”. Imagine an evening at a Pam Ayres gig, and you’re in the right ballpark. Now, I can’t relate to having lived overseas, and I don’t know what it is to be (not) served with any sort of efficiency or professionalism in a Paris restaurant – an entire musical number, ‘The Bill’, is dedicated to the sheer effort apparently involved in paying for her meal. But there really is something for everyone in this short and light-hearted show: I can attest to clutter in my own house accumulating as quickly as hers, and I am occasionally stunned myself at how quickly the years flow by, even if I would never sing about it, at least not nearly as beautifully as Tullamore, accompanied here by pianist Jordan Clarke.

There’s a living room ambience to proceedings, such is the warm and agreeable nature of the show. It was nonetheless surprising not to hear a defence in favour of the French way of life. Far from trying to change stereotypical views of the French put forward by tabloid media and other comedy shows, Tullamore adds to them, detailing, among many other things, bizarre medical prescriptions for colds and flu, and the snobbish mannerisms and conduct of Parisians in particular.

Another sort of ‘journey’ develops as a subplot, the journey of life. There is some poignancy in the portrayal of the psychological and emotional effects of a relationship that comes to an end: money can facilitate globetrotting but it cannot buy contentment. A ballad turns into the sort of soaring melody that Broadway and West End musical theatre audiences still crave. Highly emotive, it has the sorrowful impact of ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’. All things considered, it’s too descriptive of certain aspects of her travels and glosses over others. But this is a fun-filled hour (and a bit), an enthusiastic and appealing production, utterly delightful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

London-Paris- Roam! is a new show that fuses fab innovative music with an original story. It combines situational comedy and heart-to- hearts with the audience within a narrative arc that uses song as an integral part of the storytelling to create a new type of show: a one-woman musical. The original music is a blend of musical theatre, soulful ballads and catchy rhythms, accompanied by piano.

She’s jived in Japan, indulged in Italy, feasted in France… and suddenly woken up to find she’s now a woman of
a certain age. When you have to sit down to put your tights on, it’s obviously time to take stock. So what’s the next move, Sarah? “Gay Paree” has been magnifique, but maybe it’s time for a change? In this funny and moving account of her globetrotting life so far, Sarah Tullamore is packing her bags, waving Au Revoir and singing brand new songs all about it. Clear away the clutter…

London – Paris – Roam!
Starring Sarah Tullamore
Original music and lyrics James Burn
Book and additional
music/lyrics Sarah Tullamore
Director Frederic Baptiste
Piano Accompaniment John Florencio / Jordan Clark

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