Strolling through the West End on one occasion, many years ago, I noticed a mature lady nearby who looked familiar. There was something about her aura that made me want to take a closer look. I managed to do so without intruding on her personal space. I soon realised that the lady passing by was none other than Eartha Kitt – the legendary actress and singer.
It was obviously a day off for Ms Kitt, as she was dressed down and simply wanted to be a “civilian” (in the memorable words of Liz Hurley), going out on her personal business. I probably wouldn’t have recognised her, if I hadn’t seen her onstage before.
When artists like Ms Kitt are mentioned in conversations, people often make remarks such as “they don’t make them like that anymore”, etc. Maybe such comments could be regarded as banal, but they do ring truthfully when one considers that those performers were more likely to draw from their inner reserves to engage with audiences than many of their modern counterparts.
I went to see Ms Kitt perform out of professional interest. It was at Hackney Empire and she was on a bill with The Inkspots (though I wonder if any of that group’s original members were on the stage.) I was blown away by inventiveness of her act.
The only prop she used was a flight of steps that led down from the stage into the seating area for the audience. Ms Kitt may have studied physical theatre and the ideas of Grotowski, because she was able to eke out a visually compelling show that lasted for at least an hour. Wouldn’t it be great to see more of our post MTV performers of today doing the same?