April 06, 2000 03:04pm
'Oh Dear, Mrs. Robinson,' Say London Critics
by: Lynda Dugdale
(LONDON) -- The opening night audience might have given a standing ovation but London theater critics were less impressed by Kathleen Turner's much-anticipated naked seduction scene in The Graduate Wednesday night.
``Turner lays herself bare in totally pointless exercise,'' Paul Taylor wrote in the Independent.
``Oh dear, Mrs. Robinson,'' said Michael Billington in the Guardian.
London's theater fraternity went into a spin last week when it was revealed the 45-year-old Hollywood screen siren would drop her towel to play naked one of the most famous seduction scenes in cinema.
``Anyone from the dirty mac (coat) brigade who invests 40 pence (U.S. 65 cents) in theater binoculars to get an eyeful is in for a disappointment,'' concluded the tabloid Mirror.
The scene is mostly played in shadows toward the rear of the stage.
``The tumescence at the box office and the column inches (of publicity) were wildly out of proportion to the dimly lit and anti-climactic 20 seconds of exposure,'' said the Independent.
The Daily Telegraph suggested the few fleeting seconds were likely to become more famous than the play itself.
The Express took a more politically correct approach saying the ``well padded and sexy'' Turner had ``struck a blow against the tyranny of the stick insect figure.''
Evening Standard critic Nicholas de Jongh described Turner's London stage debut as ``absolutely sensational.''
But the broadly lukewarm response was a far cry from praise heaped on Nicole Kidman's 1998 London stage debut in the Blue Room in a performance deemed ``pure theatrical viagra'' by one critic at the time.
The Times asked why audiences were expected ``to go all wobbly when Hollywood glitterati... reveal for a few seconds there's something real beneath their artificial skins!''
Turner had a tough act to follow, even if she was naked.
The 1967 film staring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman remains much revered with Bancroft offering Hoffman just a tantalizing glimpse of stocking.
Most newspapers applauded Turner for having the courage to follow in Bancroft's footsteps.
``Turner's poise and sardonic delivery is as immaculate as it is funny,'' said the Express.
``There's a nice aplomb in the way she times Mrs. Robinson's put-downs,'' chimed in the Independent.
But the Guardian said the best performance was given by Kelly Reilly as Turner's daughter, Elaine.
Most critics also concluded that Terry Johnson's stage version did not compare with the ``slick glamour'' of the film.