Frank McMullan's blog

My post-retirement blog adventures

Guest post: Paris is Better

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These are the ponderings of Neil Watkins on his trip to Paris as part of a team to perform the show Silver Stars:

Neil @ Oscar Wilde's tomb, Père Lechaise cemetery, Paris

My mother did not come to see me in Paris.

Hung over, and the embodiment of fear, I try to soothe the psychotic housekeeper. Not exaggerating you now, she tried to get into my room three times.  On one occasion I was enjoying gentleman time. I should be the one who is furious with her. But I placate with my beaming Irish smile. She is furious that I’ve slept so late. From god knows where I have an ounce of compassion. I can see who this woman is. She is my aunt. Looks just like her. Perhaps like my aunt she has a difficult lot. And after this job, she returns to a life that she finds hard to cope with. I figure her apparent disgust of me is not really about me. These encounters begin to roll off me like water off a duck’s back.

Don’t speak French. Very hot out. Hung over. Feel no shame about my wild escapades the previous night. I go for the easiest option. There is a Starbucks on the corner. Catholic Guilt strangles me as I guzzle down a latte. I should be buying Parisian. I eat pancakes at my curbside table and watch how free and beautiful everyone appears to be. Paris loves femininity. A plain jane in her mid thirties, like many female Parisians, makes the best of herself. She keeps the sun at bay by parading a parasol. Rover, we’re not in the Emerald City anymore.

Everyone is a ride. People look me in the eye. I look them in the eye. And nobody feels threatened. The interpretation of staring is flattery. Young ladies join me at my table. All embrace the joy that comes with the appreciation of beauty. The Parisians allow themselves to fall in love. They give permission to all to fall in love with them. An effort is made towards impeccability. Everything should be beautiful. And they fall in love without the lubricant of drink. Opulent beauty is the drug du jour and the feminine heart beats 25 hours a day here. And I want to weep for how Ireland’s feminine heart right now feels like it’s crushed to a bloody pulp. Men with long hair, in pink, orange, purple shirts, in shorts, sandals, do their thing and do not get slagged. And hats are not knocked off their heads. They are admired, not resented. The Parisians are beyond crushing criticism. There is no “Who do you think you are?” in the ether.

There is live and let live. There is joy of life.

My phone is dead. I decide to make my way to the theatre. I succumb to a massage on the street. My masseuse is a ruddy looking asian lady. I begin to feel better as she rubs and nudges. I am on Rue Mouffetard, I think that is the spelling, and the pedestrians watch me totally relax in public. I let my feminine heart beat. And my smile advertises a five star review for this treatment to anyone who watches.

On Rue des Irlandais, the heavy black door of the Irish College is shut. I am forced out of the shade into the intense sunlight as I buzz to be admitted. A handsome black dude lets me in and just about believes me when I tell him I’m here to perform Silver Stars. I forget to let my feminine heart fall in love with him when I look him in the eye. I cover that I find him appealing. So I retract my smile. I’m still polite.

I’m here too early. Liam turns up. It’s 4.40 so we decide to take our meal now. When we return we are late and there is a slight atmosphere that you could cut with a knife. We are an hour and 15 before curtain up. I apologise for causing any concern and move on. I let it go like water off a duck’s back. And warm myself up to do a brilliant show. My tummy’s funny, so I’m in the loo more than I’d like. Seán does a nice voice warm up with me and it does the trick. I run over my pieces in the space. And I feel ready.

It’s very hot. The house is full. And the cast are all more rested today. The show is tight, and moving, and has that special something. Perhaps the spirit of Maurice Blondel has come to dance with our message of the Authentic Self. I dance just that bit more with my hand gestures in my lip synching of John McNeill‘s monologue. Sweat brews on the brows of all and now and then a trickle breaks free and splashes onto the floor.

In Paris, the Silver Stars cast performs the show in its fourth installment. Each time we reunite, the process of doing the show has moved us into a deeper level of self-acceptance. We are bearing our authentic selves around the world. We have done it on our own doorstep in Dublin. We have played New York. And now Paris.

We sing, “I love you more than God”. This is not our story they tell us in rehearsals. I hold the photograph of my mother. And this time as I open my mouth to say “Awww…” I no longer feel like killing her. I no longer feel like screaming. I no longer feel hopeless and like crying. Because after New York I said everything I needed to say. And I no longer blame my mother for saying, “God is telling me you’re not gay.” She just wanted the best for her son. Somebody told her a lie, that being gay wouldn’t be good for him.

My mother is alive. My mother has not seen the show Silver Stars. My mother did not come to see me in Paris.

But I am blissfully not angry. I accept that I am a beautiful monster with a feminine heart who does not always tick all the boxes for fitting into society. And I accept that my mother is too. Live and let live.



Written by Frank McMullan

8 June 2010 at 10:00

One Response

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  1. Neil, I’d like to congratulate you on a beautiful piece of writing! Honest and heart felt. I thank Silver Stars for bringing together a diverse range of characters – some of whom, if it was not for the show, I may never had the opportunity to meet. It has been my pleasure to hear some of the cast’s own personal stories and those stories are every bit as amazing as the ones in the show. I am happy to be a part of the ALL STARS TEAM for as long as it lasts. SHINE ON…!

    Francis Fay

    12 June 2010 at 12:24

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