Writer/ Director/ Performer: Bob Kingdom
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
In The Truman Capote Talk Show, Bob Kingdom once again captures his subject as perfectly as he did in Dylan Thomas: Return Journey. Dressed in a rather dandy hat, expensive suit with matching jumper and socks, Capote enters the stage and takes his seat under the spotlight for 70 minutes of chat about his favourite subject – himself.
Much as he has adopted different characters in previous productions the divide between Kingdom and his subject is seamless. The distinctive walk, the languid pose in his chair, the affected voice, that hair, Kingdom has his subject nailed.
Written and performed by Kingdom himself, taking centre stage (where else?), Capote / Kingdom narrates events and anecdotes from his subject’s life. Capote’s description of his unsettled childhood, his early days at The New Yorker, his friendship and collaborations with Harper Lee, the inspiration for his short stories and the notorious details behind his book In Cold Blood, form the backbone of this short evening. It is a credit to Kingdom’s writing and performance that he delivers such a magnificent portrayal of the man despite the Capote estate forbidding any direct quotations.
Kingdom’s script perceptively points to Capote’s gifts that both inspired some of America’s most celebrated writing and were at the root of his own shortcomings. By revealing his claim to having ‘400 close friends’, Kingdom is already giving away so much of the contradictions in Capote’s life. Capote was as notorious for gossiping and name dropping as he was for his waspish behaviour and betrayal towards his ‘friends’. Along the way, Capote’s story has some hilarious anecdotes of celebrity life from both east and west coast USA of the era which is fun to relive.
Kingdom keeps his subject centre stage throughout, fittingly for a man who seemed really only interested in himself. However, this is also part of the show’s shortfall. The pace and delivery can start to feel as languid as his subject’s character making the whole in need of some variety to avoid feeling overly monotonous and lose our attention. Some of the monologues feel slightly rushed in places making the words hard to discern which leads to frustrations.
This is a brilliantly inhabited performance of this celebrated author who never quite reached the literary status he felt he deserved. Kingdom’s portrayal is affectionate, but also honest. Capote’s desire for fame and Pullitzer Prize status is brutally juxtaposed by his having to settle more for infamy and regular appearances on TV talk shows as drugs and alcohol cause the tragic fading of his skills.
Runs until 26 September 2017 | Image: Simon Tyszko