Storytime: Olden-days France was hard work

A young woman - let's call her Christine - is grief-stricken and confused after the death of her father. Despite his awareness of his impending passing, he had done little to ensure his only daughter’s security and safety as she became an orphan in 18th Century Paris. He did tell her that that after he died, he would send an angel to keep an eye on her. Not exactly practical or helpful given the young woman has little other family outside the theatre troupe she spends most of her late nights and weekends with.

Children are always better off with the truth and while this big fat lie eased his mind in the short term, it set Christine up with a mindset that would allow a sexual predator and phychopath to groom and manipulate her in the most dangerous ways possible. 

Christine spends her time dancing in the chorus of a popular Parisian theatre, but it soon becomes apparent that her talent is in song. She’s a pretty good singer, but over the weeks and months after her father’s death, she seems to becomes an exceptional soprano. She tells friends she has a new tutor who has taught her a lot about music and singing. What she doesn’t tell them though is that this “new tutor” - let's call him Eric - is in fact the angel her late father had promised to send to her. A small part of Christine feels she might be going mad hearing these voices in her head, but with little other support or security to share her concerns, she attends to her “lessons" as they’re whispered through walls and from the dark of the night. 

She’s too young and naive to question this unorthodox teaching environment, that’s for sure, but then it’s probably no worse than any other Charter School.

What Christine fails to realise is that her “angel” is in fact her stalker. A man with an abusive, violent past is watching her; tracking her movements; peering from behind curtains, two-way mirrors, windows. This Peeping Tom has become obsessed with her and manipulates with his whispers and her feeds on her vulnerability.

Eventually Eric, never seen by anyone, starts manipulating and demanding money and influence over the the management, cast, and crew of the theatre company via notes and disembodied voices.

His obsession with Christine is so all-consuming so that when Christine meets an old boy friend who decides she’s someone he’d like to ‘get with' - we can call him Raoul - Eric panics and kidnaps the Christine. He forces Christine to the sub-teranium world beneath the theatre - Paris has always had a large labyrinth of sewers beneath its streets so lots of places for conversions into apartments and lairs. There he keeps her captive and stupored in the desperate hope she will fall in love with him but all she feels is terror at her situation and of him. Afraid for her life, but ever the survivor, she manages to escape.

Eric becomes enraged with jealousy and loss of control and his actions become more urgent and violent, resulting in a murder. Raoul and theatre staff decide they need to find this person and decide to use his obsession for Christine to lure him out into the light so they can shoot him.

Christine is petrified and begs Raoul and the theatre management not to make her face her abuser but they insist that she does. It’s all about them and their plan and their need to be the heroes in the situation. They ignore Christine’s pleas and tears and set about setting her as the bait in their trap.

Of course, the plan turns to custard because Raoul et al are a pack of plonkers. Erik not only gets away, he manages to yet again kidnap the Christine. This time he also manages to snare Raoul as well. Now Christine is given an ultimatum by Eric; she must submit to her him and become his wife, or watch her boyfriend die.

Christine realises how few options she has at this stage. Without any choices, chance of escape, or any support, she discovers she has compassion for her mentally ill and violent captor. She decides her only option is to give him what he wants.

Eric, caught off-guard by the flood of emotions Christine’s apparent reciprocation of his affections, he is tipped almost completely into inaction. One can't help but think if the State had supported Eric's application for financial aid for trips to the brothels of their fair city, he might not have had so much pent-up anxiety around his sexual feelings and urges and this situation wouldn’t have become so inflamed.

Christine rescues Raoul and escapes the dungeon for the second time leaving her captor and abuser to retreat further into the sewers of Paris to become even more pent-up and mentally damaged than he was before.

This is a story of abuse, neglect, mental illness, and violence - both physical and sexual. It’s what happens when victim’s rights are disregarded and about the consequences when lack of support services for the mentally ill and vulnerable are not prioritised by government and the community. Oh yeh, and the olden days in Paris were pretty hard going for everyone. 

It’s hard to believe someone read this story and thought it was appropriate for musical theatre. 

Associated links: