A solo show written and performed by Bob Kingdom, The Truman Capote Talk Show is based around the life of the famous American novelist, screenwriter, playwright and actor. One of the most enigmatic men of the last century, Capote’s rise to fame coincided with the epoch of Hollywood’s golden years – the late 1940’s and 1950’s – and as such he came into contact with everyone who was anyone. Nothing could have suited his gossipy, bitchy persona more.
Stepping onto the simple "minimalist mediocre" set consisting of a chair and table with a crystal tumbler, Kingdom owns the space immediately. His impersonation of Truman Capote is spot on, with a high-pitched slightly nasal voice and a languid demeanour. The waspish commentary of his life is impeccably delivered, and the clever put-downs of both himself and his contemporaries never fail to amuse.
A lack of permission from the writer's estate means that Kingdom cannot directly quote from any of Capote’s works, so his two most famous books, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, are mentioned almost as an aside. The show mostly deals with Capote’s life outside of his work: starting with his unsettled and unusual childhood, continuing to the rise and fall of his celebrity status, and culminating with the alcoholic blur of his final years on the talk-show circuit.
The best sections of the show focus on the self-destructive behaviour of Capote's contemporaries, including Judy Garland and Tennessee Williams, and the way in which celebrity killed Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. After all, "money needs tragedy". These moments are the closest that Capote gets to ruminating on the why of it all, and it would have been interesting to see these thoughts expanded upon.
Perhaps unusually for the Fringe, the show would have been better if it were shorter – the anecdotes, while entertaining and often interesting, fail to carry the full running time of just over an hour. The man’s overweening vanity and self-obsession are made apparent within minutes, but with a lack of examination of personal relationships and little development of character, there is nothing to latch on to. Kingdom’s Capote remains little more than a very well-done caricature.
Overall, this is a frustrating show. Kingdom’s impersonation of Truman Capote is excellent, but a lack of expansion of the events in his life means that all you will find here are oft-quoted put-downs and anecdotes. Surely there was more to explore.