The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman

Monday’s papers sing your praises.

‘What a show’, they say,

‘what a final performance’.

Hear the echoes of an applauding audience

as you exit through the stage door.

The crowd wants more of your play pretend,

a curtain call to delay the end

of your tour de force,

but I’ve seen this theatre piece before.

It’s deja-vu, I don’t need to read the reviews

when I watched you write the script,

editing out the bits where your heart lived

and calling it a work of art,

calling it method acting,

like you were just playing the part of the bad guy.

Carving your lines into my chest

for it’s so easy to forget

where the breaks come, where you pause for breath

before cutting out the section

where I had your respect.

Now I’m nothing but a prop in your creative process,

one you dressed in full costume

and cast as the princess,

kept in a tower

like the damsel in distress you wished I would be,

one that needed saving and would never be free

until you rescued me.

But this is the Disney story that never made it to screen,

where the hero and the villain

are two sides of the same person

and the princess doesn’t know which version to believe.

His charm is all that everyone else sees

but with her it’s coercion, it’s invisible chains

that succeed in depriving her of liberty,

threats that prevent her ability to leave.

He tells her she’s easy, that when she speaks

to male friends it causes him anxiety

and why did she like that guy’s picture on Instagram?

He bets she wouldn’t care if he killed himself,

she wouldn’t give a damn, and that a week later

and her legs would already be open to another man

as she tries to convince him

to step away from the train tracks

but he says he can’t bear to be without her

and with another apology she decides to take him back

because as he says,

if she loved him,

she wouldn’t just give up like that.

His monologues win him an Oscar

and five stars in the national newspapers,

he’ll definitely be remembered

and she’ll never forget what he said

about where she’d find his dead body in the valley,

about how it’s her messing with his head.

Fed lies that spun a spider’s web

that make her blame herself instead,

speeches that made him famous,

convincing the world that it’s love in these pages

as she internalises all that hatred

and for biting on his bait again

he’s offered a residency in the West End

for his perfect portrayal of the heart broken victim.

So as the fans queue for his autograph

she’ll don her disguise and quietly slip past,

return to those train tracks

and follow them till she reaches the station,

booking a one way ticket to a new destination

as she’s plucked up the courage to say it’s not her role to fix him

and this time she’s prepared for the tricks.

Like every good actress, she’s grown a thick skin

and as the train leaves the platform, the lights dim

as she takes her cue to curtesy,

raising her head to watch the credits roll in.

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