If the test is to hold the audience rapt, then yes, as both writer and performer, she passes with bells on. This query is however a lyric from the joyful and joyous Oh My God, Paris!, one of the show’s many original and impressive numbers by composer and lyricist, James Burn. It pertains to whether or not she has successfully transitioned from wide-eyed twenty-something tourist to bona-fide Parisienne, defying the unspoken rule for visitors in the City of Light, who are supposed to ‘have a wonderful time, then go away’. Now, two decades have passed – a fact that has only just come into focus for Tullamore following a brutally unexpected break-up. Along for the ride is a complementary reality check that she is now A Woman Of a Certain Age.
The show opens with Tullamore packing up her assembled knickknacks into boxes labelled, “To Keep”, “EBay”, and “Throw Away”, as she prepares to move on in her life, both literally and figuratively. It is a simple construct, but it does the job of setting the scene, and provides some surprising and poignant moments later on in the show. In keeping with the low-key premise, the stage is otherwise bare, the backcloth and Tullamore’s garb both black and unembellished. Underscoring the whole, Frederic Baptiste’s direction is subtly, unobtrusively effective.
Tullamore is joined onstage by skilled pianist John Florencio, with whom she occasionally interacts. He’s game for a laugh and there are plenty of these as song after excellent song leads us through the past twenty years. Poking gentle, truly affectionate fun at the French, and pondering earnestly on the mysteries of life beyond relationships, it doesn’t exactly pass the Bechdel Test, nor is it Les Mis, but – despite the seemingly chick-lit premise – it isn’t Sex and the City Goes to Paris, either. There is something that most folk over thirty can relate to in the assessment of life achievements against our wide-eyed dreams of youth, and Tullamore’s intro-/retro-spection is moving and meaningful because it is so familiar.
The icing on the cake is that Tullamore herself is immensely likeable, delivering her intimate, funny, and moving story with professional skill and personable ease. When she sings, the soul listens, and she possesses that ineffable aura that makes an audience trust entirely in her performance.
Towards the end of the show, Tullamore muses, ‘I don’t travel as lightly as I used to, but that’s ok.’ There’s a sense of relief and possibility in the acceptance of one’s past, one’s baggage, and one’s mistakes.
Does she pass the “test”? Bien sur, she does. There is something layered and special at the heart of this production and, whilst Sarah Tullamore is undoubtedly une vraie Parisienne, she is also, unquestionably, une vraie comedienne.