Monday, 13 June 2016

London-Dramaturgy-Roam!: Sarah Tullamore @ Edfringe 2016

London Paris Roam! 

Cabaret and Variety (musical theatre, solo show)
 theSpace @ Jury's Inn (Venue 260) ​ 15:35 Aug 5-6, 8-13, 15-20, 22-27

She's bossa'd in Brazil, jived in Japan, vamped in the Vatican, feasted in France, indulged in Italy and now, to be honest, needs a bit of a break. Preferably talking to you about it all over a nice glass of French Shiraz. Gay Paree has been magnifique but maybe it's time to move on. 

In this frank, funny and moving account of her globetrotting life so far, Sarah is packing her bags, waving au revoir and singing some brand new songs as she goes. Sarah Tullamore is clearing away the clutter!

London-Paris-Roam! is my brand new one-woman musical show which I’ve co-written with wonderful original music by James Burn, following an original workshop exploration with Russell Lucas (Julie Madly Deeply) in London. 

The show is directed by Frédéric Baptiste (Director of Sam Mendes’ Cabaret in Paris) and I’m accompanied on the piano by John Florencio (co-founder of American Musical Theatre in Paris). The show mixes original music with real-life experiences and questions we can all relate to…. It’s the story of a “woman of a certain age” trying to find her way and where she belongs in the world...a story that should resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

London – Paris – Roam ! was borne out of a realisation about 18 months ago that something was fundamentally shifting in my life and I had to embrace it to find out what it was. Itchy feet ? Mid-life crisis ? End of a significant relationship ? Unfulfilled professional ambitions  All four ? Who knows. 

But I suddenly felt tremendously full of questions and ideas and began writing down everything that this "shift" began inspiring in me. As time progressed it seemed only natural, being an English singer (in Paris) with rather a creative flair, to use these questions and ideas as the impetus for a new show and to see where it all took me. It was a bit unnerving but very exciting too !

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I’d love to say I followed a precise process but it was very organic. As if meant to be. I knew the show would be about taking stock of one’s life and living in (and maybe leaving) Paris. With humour, emotion and sincerity. I also wanted the music to be original. 

I’d already written a one-woman musical before called “Estelle Bright”, a personal creation that was a joy to perform which was a real hit with audiences and critics alike in France and the UK. However, the music wasn’t original. I knew this time that I wanted all original music and the show to be in a more informal “staged cabaret” format where I could break the fourth wall and talk to the audience if I wanted to.

And that’s where fate, good luck, call it what you will, stepped in. I described to friends exactly what I was looking for in a composer for this specific project and was advised to contact a certain James Burn in London. Well, it was a musical match made in Heaven. 

James is exactly what I was looking for. An English composer who had lived in France, who understood the bicultural duality of an English person who has lived in Paris for a long time. Not to mention the fact that we got on like a house on fire and seemed to be immediately on the same artistic wavelength. He seemed to know instinctively how to help me develop my mad thoughts and ideas into the songs and script that are the show today. Which is no mean feat !! He also composes beautifully for my voice. And so our collaboration was born and we started writing our show.

Once the show began taking shape, I made sure the director of Estelle Bright, Frédéric Baptiste, was on board as he is the most fabulous director to work with. Although French, Fred has an instinctive feel for "anglo-saxon" musical theatre and cabaret and I knew he would bring the extra dimension required to James' and my writing.

The last person to join the team was pianist John Florencio, based in Paris. I knew that James would not be available to play for me all the time and so I needed to get an associate pianist on board very quickly. I had already worked a couple of times with John in Paris and was convinced that he was the guy for the job and lucky for me, he accepted! 

John, as well as being a fab pianist,  knows instinctively how to accompany and bring out the best in a singer. He is very good at interpreting another composer's work and bringing out theatricality in a piece in places where maybe even the composer hadn't thought of it. And that is wonderful. John will be playing for me in Edinburgh.

How did you become interested in making performance?

By "making performance", I presume you mean, creating and writing my own show ? 

I've been singing and "performing" for years and have always been rather creative, improvising and creating new vocal arrangements of existing songs for example. But about ten years ago I decided to give myself the ultimate challenge : Write my own one-woman show, be on stage by myself for an hour, see if I could make people laugh and do it in a foreign language ! 

(And that was before Eddie Izzard jumped on the bandwagon, lol). I must have been crazy…

And if I'm honest, I also did it because having a very specific physical profile, I thought no one could tell me "you're great but don't correspond or fit with the rest of the cast" if it was my own show written by and for me ! I had no idea if it would work but it did and I learned a huge amount in the process. Through all the work I did with director Fred, I learned so much about comic timing, how to write comedy, what makes good dramaturgy, how to link music and script and how to keep the audience interested for more than an hour watching just one person on stage. 

And how to make people laugh in French ! It was a very steep learning curve but incredibly interesting, fun and useful. So many things that seemed obvious when writing London-Paris-Roam! came out of all the groundwork I did on Estelle Bright. Except that this time LPR was written directly in English.

All that to say that when I started having ideas for this new show 18 months ago, I knew I could do it. Except this time the format would be slightly different. Instead of a one-woman musical where I played a character in a story with the audience merely looking on, I wanted it to be a pared-down, more "intimate" setting, where I addressed the audience directly but still kept a "narrative arc" from start to finish.Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

Each project is different so I don't know if I can talk of a "typical process" but I always do a tremendous amount of background research and preliminary writing. I mix that with the creative ideas I've already had and also stay open to suggestions from others in the creative team.

What do you hope that the audience will experience? 

I hope that the audience will go on a sincere journey with me from beginning to end. Each person experiences the same thing differently but I hope that each audience member in his/her own way will be able to identify with the humour, nostalgia and emotion of the show and say to me at the end "not only was that a great show but I know and feel exactly what you're talking about" !

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

To be honest, I don't think in terms of "strategies". All I know is that as an actor you have to be sincere and credible on stage for your show, regardless of genre, to resonate with people. More specifically, I wanted the audience to feel that the switch between song and script was seamless so that they were totally swept up in the story from start to finish and not feeling "stoppy and starry" between those moments. So far it seems to be have got the thumbs-up but we'll see what Edinburgh audiences think !

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

Not really. I've just always done what I wanted to regardless of what anyone else was/is doing. Interestingly enough, one critic after seeing my show at the Paris Fringe Festival last week said that she felt like I had invented a new genre. It's true that I'm not sure if there a lot of people out there doing "staged" or "theatrical" cabaret (that's the phrase I've found to describe it at the mo). I'm on stage on my own singing and talking to the audience and so breaking the fourth wall but there is a narrative arc from beginning to end and the audience (hopefully, anyway! ) goes on that journey with me.

1 comment :

  1. Thks for putting this up Gareth ! Best wishes, Sarah Tullamore