When Kathleen cosied up to us

If you're going to spend an intimate evening with a world-famous actress it helps to know what kind of relationship she has in mind. This entails finding out not so much who she thinks she is but who she thinks you are. As we sit, watching Kathleen Turner play Tallulah Bankhead in Tallulah!, sharing boozy reminiscences in her New York apartment, we wonder how on earth it was that we slipped past the liveried doorman downstairs and got in here.

When the famous actress gets to baring her soul, and later on baring her breasts, does she think there are just a couple of us listening in or is she aware that she's in the presence of hundreds? If it's the latter, it's one hell of an apartment. Tallulah is happy to talk to her friends on the phone and happy to talk to her "friends" in the audience. She even offers one of us - as if we'd drifted into a panto - some of her scent. We know she's promiscuous, but there's a limit to the number of different relationships you can have with the same audience.

As the outspoken Broadway star, in Sandra Ryan Heyward's first play, premiered at Chichester, Kathleen Turner gives a raucous, funny, full- blown performance: dirty laugh, generous smile and - when she sings snatches of popular tunes - a touchingly smokey voice. This is the late 1940s, when she was appearing in Cocteau's The Eagle Has Two Heads and Marlon Brando has been fired. From the moment she appears in David Jenkins's luxurious set - piano, dressing table, and double bed in front of a tilted proscenium arch - Turner is keen to impress on us that we are darlings, exciting people, dear friends. Not since Barbra Streisand unburdened her feelings to me (and, OK, 12,000 others) at the Wembley Arena have I felt so privileged. When Tennessee Williams rings up, Tallulah tells him that she's talking to us. They chat for a while. He isn't happy. Tallulah cheers him up by singing "Bye-bye Blackbird" down the phone. So much for Southern manners. She said she had guests. Tennessee should have called back later.

In Michael Rudman's lively production, Turner pours drinks, paces the room, sprawls on her bed, answers the phone, tosses back her blonde hair, and talks of life, loves and VIPs in a voice that's "lower than a foghorn on a tug-boat". We see her before and after a fund-raising do for President Truman. When the phone is silent, snatches of piano filter through the curtain, prompting - along with more swigs of champagne - revelations, jokes and acting tips. Her mother, we learn, was the most beautiful woman in Alabama. She died giving birth to Tallulah, and Tallulah's father, the Speaker in the House of Representatives, could never forgive his daughter. Here champagne performs the same facilitatory role as Professor Anthony Clare.

Heyward fillets most of the best lines from the biographies and memoirs. Some are very funny. Bankhead, who described herself as "pure as driven slush", defends her bisexuality on the grounds that there aren't enough men in New York. But if I didn't warm to Heyward's play - in spite of Turner's forceful performance - it was because the format was phoney. The false chumminess of the one-way conversation she has with the audience ("Let me ask you something ... "; "Where was I?", "Am I talking too much?") lacked the candour of its subject.

Forty-two years ago Peter Hall directed an unknown play in a small theatre off Leicester Square which was dismissed by Bernard Levin (among others) as "twaddle". Last week at the Old Vic, Sir Peter returned to Waiting For Godot, the play he introduced to the English-speaking world. Without having seen the original, I'm confident the main difference between the productions lies in the audience. This time we have been well briefed. We are in on the joke from the start.

For the first 20 minutes of this splendidly clear revival, the dishevelled duo of Vladimir and Estragon score more laughs than Felix and Oscar do in The Odd Couple. We find ourselves watching a recognisable domestic relationship, like a stale middle-aged marriage, where every conversation has been had before, but that doesn't stop either side from going on and on. We respond to this immediately - drawn in by the compellingly interdependent relationship established between Alan Howard (Vladimir) and Ben Kingsley (Estragon). Both adopt Irish accents, locating Beckett's play in a literary tradition, if not in an actual place. The Good Book is the "Boible".

Howard has the bruised tenderness of a man nursing a hangover. He sucks in his body, recoiling from imaginary blows, his lowered eyelids giving him the distant gaze of an actor in a Western. The tremulous musicality of his voice ensures that nothing is thrown away: at times he might be leading the responses at Evensong. Kingsley is more at home with the snappy reversals of Beckett comedy. He has an innocent beadiness, a small man's rapid intensity - almost a Chaplinesque sprightliness at times, as he shadow-boxes enthusiastically while Vladimir takes a leak off-stage. They are well supported by Denis Quilley's spruce, finger-wagging Pozzo, and Greg Hicks's puffing, salivating Lucky. For all its originality, you wonder as Godot progresses, or rather doesn't progress, whether Beckett hasn't reached some kind of bleak outpost: one that narrowly separates "less is more" from "less is less".

Terry Eagleton's Disapperances, which opened last week at the Salisbury Playhouse, is about the competing claims made on a disting- uished if drunken Afro-Caribbean poet (played with Wellesian gusto by Rudolph Walker). It deserves a wider audience than the dozen or so who saw it with me. Eagleton, a Professor of English at Oxford University, may sketch in his characters more briskly than some full-time dramatists, but the provocative, paradoxical arguments - which lampoon the sentimental illusions that exist between the West and developing countries - have a welcome breadth. Jonathan Church's nicely cast production has good performances from (among others) Shalonne Lee as the radical daughter, Tyrone Huggins as the politician trying to persuade Walker to get involved with his country's politics ("Presidents are a matter of symbolism. What better job for a poet?") and Michael Stroud as the slyly euphemistic M16 official. Someone should send this out on a tour.

'Tallulah!': Chichester Festival (01243 781 312; 'Waiting For Godot': Old Vic, SE1 (0171 928 6655); 'Disappearances': Salisbury Playhouse (01722 320333).

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice