Tokyo, Rome, Paris, London. Sarah Tullamore sure gets around. After 22 years of living in Paris, she has decided to up sticks again to who knows where. She’s a ‘Woman of A Certain Age’ without any of the clichés expected of her – no partner, kids nor house in the suburbs (she may have the latter, she never actually mentions a purchased domicile one way or the other).
Except, London-Paris-Roam! is itself one big cliché. It’s pleasant enough, but it’s also cabaret, Disney, a bit Broadway, and ultimately, a typical tale that doesn’t quite go anywhere. The irony in a static tale about moving countries is self-evident.
Tullamore writes the story and James Burn provides the saccharine music and lyrics; all of which paint a beige picture. The same piano accompaniment from Jordan Clarke heralds the start of another song – floating quaver broken arpeggios in the right hand, with a major chord bassline (possibly with a diminished seventh for a little sprinkling of spice).
Tullamore sings about “starting over”, taking “one step forward”, and sampling foreign cuisine (or is it foreign men?) all with the same chipper; a slightly over the top attitude that can only be taken from a “How To Be A Disney Princess” guide book. The songs that pack the most punch are a welcome break from tradition, as Tullamore sits upstage on a stool and contemplates where it all went wrong with her French ex-boyfriend. This is a moment that generates empathy without forcing Tullamore to plaster a smile to her face throughout.
As a singer, Tullamore is highly competent, comfortable in her chest voice as much as her head voice. At times, she needs to punch through the break with more diaphragmatic control, which would also give her the power needed to belt out the money notes as only a musical theatre alto can. As a performer, she is pleasant, inoffensive, and immediately establishes a rapport with her audience. This is a black box show that has no fourth wall. As a comedian, she is the politely laugh along type, not risqué but no belly laughs or splitting sides either. It’s all very reserved in many ways, the polite British titter that Tullamore complains about during the performance.
London-Paris-Roam! for all its pleasantries and unimpactful qualities, is a well thought out and competently delivered evening. The story is relatable, the singing is on pitch and delivered with gusto, and Tullamore has her patter and mannerisms down to a tee. Caricatures of French waiters are well received and despite the clichés, there is a warmth to the show.
At the start of the production, Tullamore is sorting out her possessions into boxes to throw or to keep. London-Paris-Roam! can be kept, in the way that you never quite throw away a comfortable pair of holey trousers or a threadbare jumper. They don’t serve much practical use, but they’re nice to have around.
London-Paris-Roam! played Tristan Bates Theatre as part of FIRST Festival on 19 April. For more information about the sow, visit sarahtullamore.com.