Truman Capote regards us with a look that cannot be readily deciphered. Perhaps it’s regret; maybe it’s curiosity. More likely it’s pity. “You have something I never had,” he informs us gently. “You weren’t me.” Bob Kingdom delivers an appropriately waspish delivery as Truman Capote, a writer who could make a reasonable claim to have been the first celebrity to have created their own legend. “Man and myth,” he remarks, “and you can’t tell the diff”.
Capote is presented as a man who was obsessed by how he was viewed by the world, even if he had to manufacture huge swathes of his personality.
Truman Capote was such a glorious, easily mimicked character that the real litmus test is presenting such a huge personality for an hour without ever descending into caricature, or even worse, parody. With Capote’s pitched tones, arched eyebrows and pursed lips, this is a Herculean task of impossibility: even the man himself sometimes stumbled in presenting a version of himself that didn’t seem like a bad impersonation. It’s to Kingdom’s credit that the task is effortlessly completed.
Naming the hour The Truman Capote Talk Show might be slightly misleading for some, since it might suggest that Capote has the slightest interest in talking to anyone that isn’t him. In fact, it’s a solo show, filled to the brim with the writer’s meditations on film stars, sex, parties, and his own beautiful hair. There’s no real attempt by Kingdom to craft a narrative in the hour, aside from Capote’s maxim about the four stages of American fame, but frankly, there really isn’t any need to — when you have Truman’s words to work with, why would you settle for anything else? Those wanting a meta-commentary on Truman Capote will be mildly frustrated, but then Capote could indeed by mildly frustrating and since one of his favourite subjects to wax lyrical about is himself, he provides quite enough meta-commentary on his own. Breakfast At Tiffany’s, arguably Capote’s most famous work, gets about as much mention as Capote himself might have desired, which is to say not all that much. There’s a little more time spent on In Cold Blood, but only a little; the relationship formed between Capote and Perry Smith could fill an hour by itself.
It’s an hour of stories simply told, Capote languid in a comfortable chair, gifting us with carefully selected stories ranging from his childhood, growing up with family members to the bright lights of New York city, and public adoration. Capote is presented as a man who was obsessed by how he was viewed by the world, even if he had to manufacture huge swathes of his personality. “I was always 100 per cent Truman Capote” he tells us, perhaps in protest. And so it is proved — Bob Kingdom is 100 per cent Truman Capote.