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Kathleen Turner: 'I actually have perfect pitch and can sing 'Ol' Man River' in the original key'

The American legend is bringing her one-woman show to The Other Palace in April

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Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner found fame after her film debut Body Heat in 1981 and since then starred in classic movies such as Romancing the Stone and Peggy Sue Got Married as well as voicing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. On stage she has appeared in the West End, on Broadway and beyond, earning Tony Award nominations for Best Actress for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and starring in the 2000 West End production of The Graduate. Now she's back in London, appearing in her one-woman show Finding My Voice, which opens at The Other Palace in April. Here she explains a little more about it.

What can we expect from Finding My Voice?
This really comes out of my stories. I tell stories from jobs I've done and I sing some songs that I love. It's not the songs that tell the story, it's the stories which provoke me into singing a song. We're in the midst of expanding the show, it was one hour 15, cabaret length, but we are putting in an interval and making it 30 minutes longer for the London run.

Are the songs you sing linked directly to your career?
Some are linked to stories, some are songs I sing because I love singing them period. When I talk about my career, it starts off so hopeful, and excited and I sing "It's Only a Paper Moon" which is about building a world that you believe in. Then the jobs start coming in, the success, the travelling and I sing "Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home". Then I'm on the road, I've started a family, I'm in love and have great friends and a home and know I'm not going to see them for months, and I sing "Sweet Kentucky Ham".

How do you choose the songs?
Sometimes I can tell immediately if I am going to sing that song or not. Sometimes I have to play with it to see if it's really mine. This is not a script given to me that I find a way to make work, which is unlike anything else I've done. This one I get to write. It's so thrilling.

Are you enjoying it?
I am just so tickled at the thought I can do it at all. I never thought of myself as a singer. I actually have perfect pitch, but when I came to New York aged 22 every lead in anything was a soprano and that was never going to be me. I can actually sing "Ol' Man River" in the original key. I think I'm one of about seven women who can do that. So I just said: no I don't sing. And that became true. Until I was asked to do Mother Courage a few years ago and that got me hooked.

You're back in London, do you like it over here?
It's my second home! I grew up in England, I went to the American School in St John's Wood. I planned to go to Central, but my father died suddenly so we had to leave England. But England is very dear to me.

What are you working on next?
I might do some teaching over here, although my style is probably not approved by most English drama schools. Which makes me all the more eager to do it. I have a play I want to direct, but that wouldn't be here for a while. Then there's a musical too, but I can't say much. I'm having a ball.

Did you always know you wanted to act?
I knew when I was 12, which made no sense whatsoever because I was living in Caracas in Venezuela at the time. I don't think I had ever seen a play but I was, and still am, a voracious reader. I told my parents and they just patted me on the head and said: "OK darling". When we moved to London that just solidified everything. It was all I was ever going to do.

Do you prefer stage or screen?
Stage. It's fascinating to do film, but there's nothing like the knowledge that what is happening won't ever be repeated again. Theatre is a once in a lifetime occasion and subliminally the audience knows that. As our technology evolves more and more I am coming to believe it is essential. When you sit down next to a stranger in a theatre you sit closer than you do to anyone in your own home. You start to breath together, and you hold your breath together, you laugh at the same time. You become part of something physically.

Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice runs at The Other Palace from April 17 to 6 May and then tours the UK to Salford (8 May), Bury (9 May), Horsham (11 May), Colchester (12 May), Worthing (13 May) and Edinburgh (14 May).