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Bakersfield Mist, Duchess Theatre, review


In Polly Teale's slick English premiere of this Stephen Sachs two-hander, Kathleen Turner returns to the London stage as a character based on the real-life Teri Horton, an uneducated former truck driver who bought a splatter painting as a joke-present for three bucks from a junk shop only to discover that she might be sitting on a priceless Jackson Pollock.

Set in the character's Californian trailer home, stuffed with naff, scavenged bric-a-brac, the play dramatises the encounter between Turner's appealingly blowzy, street-smart, foul-mouthed Maude and Ian McDiarmid's impossibly snooty and uptight English art expert, Lionel, who treats her and her picture with instant condescension. 

The ballsy outsider versus the snobby closed world of connoisseurship; so far, so cliched.  The trouble is that, as the unbroken 90-minute piece gradually reveals that Maude has a lot more emotionally invested in her  tireless crusade for validation than the prospect of millions, it continues to trade in contrived and hackneyed devices. 

Improbably fuelled by slugs of Jack Daniels and climaxing in an all-out wrestling match, the odd couple double-act is conveyed with expert comic gusto by Turner and McDiarmid.  But in its musings on different types of authenticity and value, the play is too compressed, glib and reliant on facile twists to be deemed the genuine article. 

To August 30; 0844 482 9672