Candace Bushnell: True Tales of Sex, Success and Sex and The City – London Palladium

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Candace Bushnell

Director: Lorin Latarro

“I’m not married, I don’t have kids and I’m grateful,” Candace Bushnell announces towards the end of her one-woman touring show describing the 50-something divorcee she became in the years after her famous columns were turned into the TV and film phenomenon Sex and the City, and anyone thinking Bushnell may have peaked needs to spend 90-minutes in her vibrant company. She partied at Studio 54, dated Mr Big, married Mr Bigger and is open to finding Mr Biggest. Candace Bushnell: True Tales of Sex, Success and Sex and The City arrived at the London Palladium for one night only with one clear message for its largely female audience – now in her mid-60s, Candace Bushnell is as hungry for life as ever.

In a marketplace crowded with celebrity stage interviews and appearances, this show is the most theatrically staged ‘memoir’ of them all, a delightfully nimble tour of Bushnell’s eventful life from first arriving in New York aged 18 and immediately shacking up with a boyfriend in his 60s to disco-networking to get her first writing job and the run of bestsellers she continues to produce. What sets this apart is Bushnell’s role in not only narrating her story but also recreating key moments with phone calls with her three best friends, conversations and even excerpts from her famous show all dramatised for the eager audience.

In fact, a number of different devices structure Bushnell’s story including two fun rounds of ‘Real or Not Real?’ in which the audience tries to guess which incidents from Sex and the City were based on Bushnell’s own experiences, and which may have been better or hilariously worse than the fictionalised version. The show also has a series of nine lessons emerging from Bushnell’s life, from men lie to friends last longer than any man, while a sub-narrative takes in a trajectory that sees her grow into her famous creation, Carrie Bradshaw. She then, more interestingly, begins to move beyond her fictional self as Bushnell describes taking control of her own career and advocating for female power and independence through her work.

One of the key themes in True Tales of Sex, Success and Sex and The City is Bushnell’s self-made accomplishments and work ethic. While that brought rapid success and a lot of shoes, the reference to the television show is only one part of a life that began with $20 at a bus station in New York. Like having a private chat over cocktails, Bushnell is candid and conversational, inclusive, witty and really able to engage with her audience from the moment she steps onto the stage. She’s having a great time up there and it is clear that the real secret to Bushnell’s success is herself.

Anyone not familiar with the Sex and the City series may struggle to get all the references and there are some untapped themes about parental disapproval in her younger days that are forgotten quite quickly, but the theatrical styling of Bushnell’s show is refreshing and its messaging about female agency is entertainingly pitched.

Reviewed on 7 February and continues to tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Hungry for life

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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