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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Risqué Kathleen divides critics
The Graduate
Warm reception: Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys
Hollywood star Kathleen Turner's saucy West End debut has met with a standing ovation from theatregoers, but a mixed reaction from the critics.

The much-anticipated opening of The Graduate - driven by the hype over Turner's decision to appear completely naked as Mrs Robinson - took place at London's Gielgud Theatre on Wednesday to a packed house.

She's well padded, sexy and she's struck, I believe, a blow against the tyranny of the stick insect

Robert Gore-Langton, The Express
Turner and the cast - in which Matthew Rhys plays Mrs Robinson's naive prey Benjamin Braddock - received a standing ovation at the end of the show.

But the opinion of the theatre critics in the national press has ranged from the gushing to the unmoved.

'Never less than watchable'

Turner, 45, takes on the part played by Anne Bancroft in the 1967 film version of The Graduate. Unlike Bancroft, however, Turner strips off to the skin to lure the young Benjamin.

Though many people speculated before the show's opening that Turner - with or without her clothes - could rival Bancroft's original performance, Michael Billington of The Guardian declared himself more than satisfied.

Kathleen Turner
Turner begins the stripping down process
"It is Kathleen Turner, at once statuesque and mesmerisingly feline who steals, the show.

"She plays the seduction scenes with marvellous comic timing, and at best her Mrs Robinson seems as sassy as Bacall and as funny as Mae West."

Robert Gore-Langton from The Express said: "Ms Turner's poise and sardonic delivery is as immaculate as it is funny, She does Mrs Robinson brilliantly. Indeed, this Sixties-look stage version by Terry Johnson is never less than watchable."

'Not a patch on the movie'

Elsewhere other critics were less convinced. While praising Turner's brave decision to go naked, Michael Billington of The Guardian said:

"Turner's mocking stillness gives the seduction scene a comic sexiness as if Mae West were coming on to a panic-stricken Jerry Lewis. But everything rapidly goes down hill from there."

Turner's mocking stillness gives the seduction scene a comic sexiness as if Mae West were coming on to a panic-stricken Jerry Lewis. But everything rapidly goes down hill from there

Michael Billington, The Guardian

The London Evening Standard's Nicholas de Jongh adds that it's "an evening of impure theatrical delight".

The Mirror's Tony Purnell agreed: "The play is not a patch on the movie," he said, continuing: "Her (Turner's) performance may not win her a Bafta but she deserves a medal for bravery."

However, Benedict Nightingale of The Times just couldn't get understand what all the fuss was about.

"Was I alone in getting a strong sense of deja-vu? We're expected to go all wobbly when Hollywood glitterarti like Nicole Kidman in 1998 and Turner now reveal for a few seconds there's something real beneath their artificial skins."

In truth, not much of Turner can in fact be seen when she bares all. The scene is bathed in dim blue light as the actress drops her towel, leaving Tony Purnell of The Mirror to warn:

Kathleen Turner
Turner's acting ability was overshadowed by the nudity
"Anyone from the dirty Mac brigade who invests 40p in the theatre binoculars to get an eyeful is in for disappointment."

The West End show has so far sold more than 40,000 seats for its 10-week run and has the largest box office advances of any current play.

The best seats in the house have already sold out for the first month. And whatever the critics say, there is no doubt that it will continue to be a big draw.

See also:

31 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Here's to you, Ms Turner
04 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Golden Oldie prize for O'Toole
01 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Broadway springs into action
29 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Priestley sentenced to jail
05 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Turner bares all in stage debut
29 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Turner nudity boosts ticket sales
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