Review by Daz Gale
While Sarah Jessica Parker has brought her Manolo Blahnik’s to the West End, currently starring in The Plaza Suite at the Savoy Theatre, I couldn’t help but wonder what the original Carrie Bradshaw was up to. Luckily for me, Candace Bushnell, the creator of the character and inspiration for Sex And The City was on hand to answer all of these burning questions as she took her UK tour down the road from SJP for a stop at the iconic London Palladium. Would I find her true tales of Sex And The City arousing or was this one show that should have been left as a one night stand?
If you are not familiar with Candace Bushnell, she is the journalist who created the Sex And The City column in the New York observer which was then turned into the book which, in turn, spawned the mega hit TV show (and movies). She has also written a series of bestselling novels with The Carrie Diaries and Lipstick Jungle also being adapted for television. Drawing inspiration from her friends, relationship and her life, the character of Carrie Bradshaw and the franchise she led (with some help from Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha) was born. In this one-woman show, Candace promised to reveal just how much of the events from the series really happened to her, where the idea came from and what happened to her after the series ended (pretending And Just Like That never happened, of course).
Let’s make one thing clear – Candace Bushnell is here to give you a fun night out, appealing to a certain demographic. In an audience full of women, I was acutely aware I may not be the target audience for this kind of show (even though the gays clearly love her. How could we not?) in situations and experiences that most members of the audience could relate to.. This became clear when she (rather randomly) reached her hand into a box, screamed “SCRUNCHIES” repeatedly like she had just seen a mouse and proceeded to throw them into the audience. All I could do was observe and be entertained even if I didn’t quite connect with all of the material.
As a person, Candace is fierce, fascinating and fabulous. Having led a life that was anything but dull, there was a wealth of material to draw from as she charmed and captivated with her stories of love, heartbreak and her illustrious career. With an audience hanging on her every word, she filled the stage with an almighty presence in a performance that was more playful than I might have expected. As she danced around and through herself on top of furniture to visualise the stories, there was much on offer to enjoy, especially her recurring game of “real or not real” where she took scenes from the Sex And The City TV series and asked the audience whether they thought it really happened to her or not.
The frustration with these stories is that they weren’t dived into deeply enough. Understandably, Candace has a lot of stories and only a short amount of time to recreate them, but it felt like we had barely scratched the surface before we were transported to a completely different situation at a rapid pace. I would have liked to have had a bit more meat to some of these stories but instead what we got were more akin to two veg. Anyone hoping for Candace to reveal some of the gossip or backstage drama from the headline grabbing TV series would have been disappointed by the lack of revelations and juicy content.
To an extent, these weren’t needed as Candace’s own life was more interesting than the fiction she created. Amongst the subjects prevalent through Candace’s stories were her many girlfriends who formed the inspiration for Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha. Of course, there was a Mr. Big (and a Mr. Bigger) and she briefly touched upon her time with the real man. The greatest aspect of her storytelling were the life lessons they led to, dotted throughout the show and creating punctuation in the narrative, all with a tongue placed firmly in her cheek. Still, these messaged had a powerful and inspiration message. If Candace’s goal was to uplift and empower all of the women filling every level of the London Palladium, that is a job well done I’d say.
A truly exuberant individual, it was hard not to fall in love with Candace Bushnell on stage and marvel at the highs and lows she had been through. A perfectly fine and pleasant night if not as ground-breaking as it could have been. To put it in perspective, while it didn’t quite match the dizzying heights of the first Sex and the City movie, thankfully it was a lot better than And Just Like That. Regardless of how exhilarating the whole show was, London city was glad to get a glimpse of the woman responsible for changing attitudes and doing so much for women all over the world.
Candace Bushnell continues her UK tour until 16th February with dates in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Oxford and Canterbury. Tickets from http://candacebushnell.entertainers.co.uk