sat 19/01/2019

Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice, The Other Palace review - a familiar name in freshly exciting form | reviews, news & interviews

Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice, The Other Palace review - a familiar name in freshly exciting form

Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice, The Other Palace review - a familiar name in freshly exciting form

The screen and stage star invents herself anew, this time in song

Carefully taught: Kathleen Turner makes her UK cabaret debutNick Rutter

A one-time Martha and Maggie the Cat in the theatre, and a screen siren of the sort they don't make any more, might not be the first person you expect to see swaggering on to a London stage in a dark pantsuit ready to offer up two hours of song and chat. Can it really be Kathleen Turner  yes, that Kathleen Turner, whose credits range from Jessica Rabbit to Mrs Robinson in The Graduate – who is currently refashioning the American songbook to suit her own take-no-prisoners bravura, all the while revealing a capacious heart?  

The fact is that Turner, to her eternal credit, has never conformed to expectation or played by the rules. A stage devotee at a time when many of her contemporaries have retreated to the movies (when did Kathy Bates last do a play?), Turner here shows herself to be a song stylist of a seriously high order in an evening of cabaret that will do a short UK tour after the run at The Other Palace concludes. Sure, the voice itself isn't a beautiful one; who would expect a lyric soprano from such a husky and guttural actress?

What Turner brings to her chosen repertoire is an appreciable sense of a life re-examined, reconfigured even, through song. You get the ache alongside the acclaim and sense the tears that accompanied the triumphs: her recollection of the agony that went with climbing the circular staircase of the gravity-defying set for Broadway's Indiscretions (the Cocteau play known in London as Les Parents Terribles) brings the house to a hush, as it must. It took a while for Turner to realise that a body in seemingly rebellious lockdown was in fact a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, an illness that one of her doctors early on dismissed as thespian "vanity".

Was Turner's career over, alongside her ability to walk? Not bloody likely, though the answer hung in the balance at the time. That experience prompts one of the most expressive versions of "Send in the Clowns" I have ever heard. Stephen Sondheim's lyric about "losing my timing this late in my career" clearly resonates with a performer who is thinking even now about what's new and next in an industry that clamours only for what has been done before. 

Turner knows how to draw us into her confidence so that her stories land, whether recalling an itinerant childhood spent in Cuba, Venezuela, and London, or recounting a burgeoning friendship struck up with Maggie Smith over the unlikely topic of stage door barricades. (The two grandes dames were headlining plays in adjacent theatres along Shaftesbury Avenue.) She speaks with deadpan drollery of a climate for women in which you're seen to be over the hill at 37, and passionately of the numerous causes that occupy her in these troubled times. The signature throatiness can be impudent and sweary but also welcoming and warm: the theatre, she says, has been her salvation, and the audience, one feels, is that for her as well.

Along with the reminiscences come the songs, whether by Harold Arlen or Rodgers and Hammerstein, "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" or more modern selections like the piquant "Throw It Away", its breezy insouciance an antidote to the gathering stress of life. Robert Jones's set, with its throw rug and sofa, has the feel of an impromptu home – aptly enough, given Turner's thoroughgoing occupancy of a song like "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home". Andy Gale's direction skilfully allows the brassy and the brash to intermingle throughout.

There's a choice of restorative drinks available atop musical director Mark Janas's piano from which Turner takes a sip while powering through, any occasional throat-clearing taken in its stride. I was put in mind more than once of the matchless Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, to which Finding My Voice is clearly an heir of sorts. And for all that Turner can (and does) boast of baring her flesh on Broadway as Mrs Robinson at age 48, how lucky is London to find the same inimitable talent 15 years on engaged in the far more daunting process of baring her soul.

Turner brings to her chosen repertoire an appreciable sense of a life re-examined, reconfigured even


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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