It’s not all too often you find yourself engaged in conversation with a Brazilian software developer, an American bartender and an Irish graphic designer whilst watching a Canadian burlesque chanteuse unlace her corset on a Parisian stage… Although I’m well aware it sounds like the beginnings of a “three men walk into a bar” scenario, such was my evening on Saturday September 27th when I was given the chance to attend the Expatriate Talent Show held downstairs at Belushi’s Paris Gare du Nord. The event, described by one attendee as “a sit down feast of nationalities, variety and entertainment” proved to be an evening of laughter and warmth that not only exceeded my expectations of showmanship but also made a point to prove the power of the expatriate community and multinational connectedness.
Despite already being familiar with the downstairs venue, situated just a stone’s throw from Paris’s Gare du Nord, there was something special about seeing it transformed into a family-friendly performance space. Lounge style seating had been arranged to ensure a comfortable and relaxed view of the warmly lit stage and the walls had been completely decorated in giant flags of countries from all over the world. The room was full of people of all ages laughing and chatting away in an array of accents. Pre-show drinks were enjoyed by all as I overheard people sharing experiences of “la vie à Paris” and tales of “back home in (insert home-country)”. I remember thinking that the evening was an absolute success on the turnout and vivacity of the patrons alone, I could only wait and see what happened once the show began.
I managed to squeeze in a few hellos to various organisers including Kevin Knight; idea man and chief organiser of the event as well as Ben Kelly, the marketing and events manager of Belushi’s before enjoying a drink and lively conversation with various patrons and performers. I was even lucky enough to witness the warm-up act of three year old Ninu on his toy guitar before settling in to watch the start of the show. We were welcomed and introduced to the events of the evening by our MC, Mo Abdin who introduced the four judges for the competition; Florian Bartsch (Germany), Keri Chryst (USA), Lisa Jacobs (UK) and Lianna Wittenberg (Australia), a group of diverse entertainment professionals in performance, music and improvisation who had generously donated their time that evening to provide feedback to the performers.
The show itself kicked off with stand-up comedy routines by professional comedians Phyllis Wang and Luke Thompson, who successfully buttered up audience members with their satirical and contemplative anecdotes on everything from adult toys to French idioms. In particular, Thompson’s impersonation of a BBC news reporter set the house on fire and gave insight into just how receptive and engaged the audience was set to be for the remaining acts. What followed was a night of both amateur and professional international talent on display; including (but not exclusive to) song, poetry, burlesque, hip-hop, instrumental performance and stand-up comedy. The results? Third place was taken by vocal/guitar duo Laeti & Sumit who performed an acoustic rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi”. Whilst the judges seemed to be in opposition with the comedic working relationship between the two, both judges and audience members were in agreement at the level of natural talent shown by the duo and they were given high encouragement to continue the development of their skills. Second place went to the largest performing group of the night, MD Crew, who had travelled all the way from Fontainebleau just to be a part of the event. Their well rehearsed hip-hop showcase injected the crowd with a huge burst of energy as well as demonstrating not only the skills of the crew but their choreographer’s (Charlotte Chazal) talent for putting on a show. Finally, the first place award was given to vocalist André whose combined talent for guitar and singing as well as his original lyrics proved to be the crowd favourite of the evening.
Although each individual artist cannot be mentioned, absolutely everyone deserves to be commended for stepping onto the stage that evening. Their courage and willingness to share a part of themselves with such a diverse crowd of strangers was not just commendable but representative of the boldness and passion we have as expatriates in Paris. Abdin mentioned after the event, “As a first-timer MC, I didn’t know what to expect, whether it would be a grand success or a grand failure. Since everyone was there united in fun, friendship and entertainment, the show could not have gone wrong. It was a great time getting to know the contestants and seeing what they had to offer”.
Ultimately, the most grand accomplishment of the night was the simple achievement of bringing so many different souls together not just in the name of entertainment, but of community. It was a comforting sight to see so much diversity and experience coming together under one roof, as I’m sure many of us have experienced the isolation that can be experienced when living and working in a completely foreign environment. The thought that there is frequently a little bar somewhere in Paris full of “familiar strangers” is a reassuring prospect indeed, and I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the next Expatriate event.
If you would like to perform at the next expatriate talent show, let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll inform you when the next date is in the diary.