Clowning around in gay (and European) Paris

Bonjour! Oui oui! Je suis à Pareeeeeeee!

Mimi The Clown
Mimi The Clown. Image by Sharon Mollerus

Translation: I’m in Paris. I can’t believe it. I don’t know how I ended up here. The last few months just flew; I had a birthday, did a brief season of Doctor Who at the Opera House as a vampire, ate my way through Christmas and New Years, taught a week-long Bollywood workshop for five year olds and now I’m in France. What?

It’s all pretty strange. Vampires, Bollywood and Paris, although I think the thing of most significance is the birthday. When I was in Paris two years ago, people would say “Bonjour Mademoiselle!” This time they refer to me as Madame. I guess I’m not wearing my 27 ans as well as I’d hoped. But no matter, I’m here to be a clown, and clowns are ageless.

I’m also here to become a master of French cuisine and purchase every piece of clothing I can lay my hands on, but I’ve ticked both of those boxes in less than a week so now I can focus entirely on finding my clown… in my new size 18 pantaloons with pastry crumbs falling out the sides.

I arrived last Friday on a freezing -4 degree morning. It was pitch black when the plane landed and all I could see as we raced along the tarmac was mountains of sand. How odd to have an airport full of sand in the middle of a European winter, I thought. Then it dawned on me. It was snow.


The rush of excitement lasted mere seconds before I realised I was still wearing shorts and thongs. Then I recalled my earlier struggle with packing and realised the entire contents of my suitcase consisted of 17 summer dresses, a pair of woollen socks and a hairdryer. The only warm thing I had was my Mum’s enormous black coat, which made me look like a homeless man from the Russian Revolution. It would have to be so. I put on the trench coat over everything I owned and made my way to the centre of Paris.

After sleeping all day, I decided to take myself out to dinner. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that I was a foreigner, but unfortunately the Bolshevik jacket and sparkly Cotton On Kids beanie was a bit of a giveaway. The waiter took one look and passed me an English menu. I made myself comfortable at a table next to a young man and woman who were deep in conversation. I quickly observed that the man was the most flamboyant, limp-wristed, bevelled human that had ever existed. Just as I had passed judgement, he reached forward and passionately kissed his girlfriend. I was shocked, suddenly realising that my Gay or European discernment needed serious attention. Or maybe it was the jetlag. By this stage I was so delirious that after one glass of wine I felt like I was on acid, and when the waiter asked me something slightly complicated, I screamed out “NON!” I have no idea why, it was truly an out of body experience. I think I was trying to be funny. At any rate, he looked utterly perplexed and I didn’t know what was going on, so I tipped him extra and promptly left.

The next day I went on a mission to update my wardrobe. It had only taken me 12 hours to realise that no-one else in this city was wearing thermals other than me, so I resolved to find a very warm and stylish European winter coat that would render all my snow gear unnecessary. Three hours later I left La Galleries Lafayette with two coats, a pair of leggings, jeans, two tops, a scarf and a hat.

A brief note on La Galleries Lafayette: If you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars or self-discipline, don’t go there. You will flounder in a sea of the most exquisite clothing and shoes and lingerie and everything. Everything that is beautiful in the world is at La Galleries Lafayette. Including macarons and wine that comes out of soft drink taps.

As soon as I entered the building I just wanted to grab a garbage bag and start hurling things into it. I felt like Santa Claus about to rob a toy store. And with my Trotsky coat and widening girth from too much cheese, I could have passed as him too. But I eventually got a hold of my senses, made the “necessary” purchases and left looking a little more at home on the streets of Paris.

On Sunday I met up with Marie-Sophie who is a friend of one of my WAAPA buddies. We went to lunch, where I proudly ordered a salad. Moments later I was presented with a mountain of cheese, bread and pate on a bed of three lettuce leaves. For a long time I stared in horror, until I noticed that my new French friend had eaten everything on her plate including a brownie and pain au chocolat. She then got up and slinked off to pay the bill in her size 4 jeans. I was furious. I couldn’t even breathe and my insides were turning to concrete and here she was practically jeté-ing across the room! I have since quizzed her endlessly about the secret to the French metabolism and so far no response has proven satisfactory. She continues to get up each morning and have three biscuits, a nutella crepe and coffee whilst I sip my lemon water and try not to punch her in the face.

On Monday we went to the largest bank in Paris to set up my account, where were ushered into the smallest office in the world. It was like Gringotts. But it didn’t matter, because it was Jean-Philippe’s office. JEAN-PHILIPPE! He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Every time he said something in French, which was always, I nearly died. I looked like I’d just been hit by a bus and drowned because I’d attempted a bikram yoga class that morning for the first time in years, and pretty much sweated out all of my internal organs. But luckily Marie-Sophie was there to organise everything so I could just sit there and gaze at him. At the end of the meeting he told me that he used to make short films and had a friend in TV casting and could give me his email. I told him I wanted to marry him. Fortunately he spoke five words of English so my flippant but also deadly serious remark went over his head.

And that’s about all I can report! Since then I’ve really just been eating croissants and trawling the streets of Paris. Marie-Sophie has very kindly offered me her spare room in Montmartre, but I’m scared I’ll get depressed and fat living with her so it’s more likely I’ll live in Etampes where the school is actually located. I start on Monday. I’m so excited! I will try my best to write each week with my discoveries and neuroses and epiphanies. I really believe in the philosophies of this style of acting work and would love to share it with you. In the meantime, j’espère que vous avez une bonne semaine!


Kate Walder

Kate is a 2008 graduate of the BA Music Theatre course from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). During her time at the academy she played the role of Linda in Blood Brothers, The Young Wife in Hello Again, Marguerita in West Side Story and featured in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd and Oklahoma!, for which she was Dance Captain. After moving to London in 2009 Kate played the role of Clio in La Dispute at the Soho Theatre and subsequently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since returning to Sydney, Kate has written and performed her one-woman show Coffee with Kate: the Cabaret at the 2010 inaugural Sydney Fringe Festival, a show based on a series of weekly columns she wrote for She is currently co-writing a new show with a fellow WAAPA graduate which will premiere later in the year.

Kate Walder

2 thoughts on “Clowning around in gay (and European) Paris

  • Fabulous. je’taime

  • exuse my poor french spelling, Je t’aime


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