My one & only mistress: Paris

Then there was….. A Paris revisit and a segue way to Brussels as we make our way to the final resting place of this six week trip; Amsterdam.

Why Paris again? Well, it was somewhat necessary. I had started finding my groove by the end of the first stay, and thought it would be silly to not return on the way to Amsterdam. I was translating my repertoire almost twenty four seven – always listening and reading my “Barbara – complete anthology’ that I found accidently in the Marais. I was forming stronger friendships with locals, and pursued an outing to Oberkampf Boulevard to see a new friend and contact Mamzelle Viviane perform at Il Cantada (on Friday 13th – to which the theme was also ghoulish and morbid). It was she that I met the night before my departure for Belgrade. We exchanged over a peach infused beer (pretty tasty by the way) watching the streets of Pigalle swim by. The perfect setting for cabaret, burlesque, theatre conversation. Mamzelle Viviane shared her history, where she began and how she became. It was very satisfying to be speaking with a beautiful French woman about the work I have come to realise in Europe. In some ways it was like a check in – anwswering questions, reiterating next steps, exposing the uncertainties and being reminded that there is something great coming from what i was doing right then and there. Networking, learning, exchanging, connecting….

Like Berlin, where I learnt the difference between Cabaret and Kabarett, in conversation with Mamzelle Viviane I started understanding the distinctions bewteen Cabaret (Au Lapin Agile, La Chat Noir, story/song/text/character), Musical Theatre (not like musicals but CanCan, Lido, Moulin Rouge), Burlesque (the art of striptease BUT also the art of fantasy which not always includes stripping), Chanson (French singing cabaret style) and the other Cabaret (boobie revealing on table tops – identified mostly as stripclubs).

It was then that I recognised that my work is a very mixed form and I will never be able to clearly label it. I thought I could but it is Cabaret sans boobies on tabletops, it is Kabarett, it is Chanson, it is Musical Theatre (with dance) and it is Burlesque. The only thing I had to do was to stop trying to work out what it was, and just enjoy what it is. This is a common thing. This is something I should really leave to the critics to work out when the damn thing is performed, but we are not even there yet.

So, it was this meeting that determined my return to Paris for a second time. I had unfinished business.

The Friday 13th invite was a variety theatre show with belly dancers, burlesque performers, cabaret and circus performers. It was a very small venue, not ideal when you are bundled in five layers of clothing to beat the cold outside because you are most likely to faint inside. There were hundreds of people crammed into the dungeon of Il Cantada, to steal a glimpse of the image on the wall and match it with the correct performer. This venue also has a remarkable reputation for delivering a wide menu of ABSINTHE. Now, I did not manage to taste the delectable treats Il Cantada served for I was without voice and did not want to screw up my chances of ever finding it again. (I must say though, that the gin tonics were doing a great job at retreating the voice – note for when sick again). With the spice of Absinthe, the craziness of patrons and their costumes, and a fun filled variety show that surpassed the normal duration, Il Cantada proved to be worth the visit on my final Friday night in Paris. It was a little odd taking oneself to a bar where you are lost in the company of everyone else, but it gave me the opportunity to exercise a favourite perverse past time, the art of voyeurism. All that should be noted, was that the crowd was very un-Parisian. The only thing that reminded you that you were in Paris was the language.

If you happen to be in Paris and want a good night spot, definitely take yourself out to Prementier (something of the like) Metro and head to Oberkampf Boulevard. This place will be sure to give you a fabulous night out all moonlight long!

Now, the other reason why this second adventure of Paris was a tad more exciting than the first : I was staying in a famous building in Paris called Cite des Arts thanks to wonderful friends of mine. The room, unfortunately was not Serge Gainsbourg’s room, but he did live two levels higher and shared the same view as me.  I had a piano in my room and seductive view of Paris including the river Seine, the Pantheon, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. How’s that for inspiration! I was finally able to open my fresh Parisian chanson songbooks and begin rehearsing the tunes that set the show. I heard rehearsing opera singers through the floor, painters slapping canvas through the wall, violinists crying and pianists tiring their hands very much like those years ago at the Con at Melbourne University – the neverending discipline shrieking through the basement corridor. You were a living, breathing artist and there was nothing that never reminded you otherwise.

When I first arrived in Paris, all I wanted to do was return to the serenity and easy lifestyle of Berlin. It was there that I thought I was in love. Paris was overrun by tourists and it made me think real ugly thoughts of a city that was classified as a romantic’s dreamland. For me, skipping cobblestones down the back streets of Montmatre or Rue Moufettard was more tantalising than that of looking up the skirt of the Eiffel Tower.

Then she took me in her arms like any good mistress, and provided the things I needed to fulfill my purpose in Paris. It’s hard not to remain faithful. Paris has her ways, and it was here that I was at my most vulnerable state – no other way to be truely inspired!

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