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Breakfast at Tiffany's - Theatre Royal Haymarket (Review)

Anna Friel. Photo credit: Uli Weber

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

LIKE most people I came to know Holly Golightly through Blake Edwards’ 1961 film which starred Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, and sadly, that does Samuel Adamson’s new stage adaptation of Truman Capote’s classic novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s no favours.

Comparisons are inevitable and not necessarily flattering, for Adamson has taken the story back to its roots and it’s a story that Capote himself described as “rather bitter”. In fact, he went so far as to say: “The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City, and as a result was thin and pretty, whereas it should have been rich and ugly.”

So you have been warned. However, for those of you unfamiliar with the story – and where have you been? – it revolves around the beautiful but insecure Holly Golightly (played here by Anna Friel), a woman with whom everyone falls in love, especially aspiring writer William Parsons (Joseph Cross).

But William is poor and Holly is looking for someone with money – the more the better – and fitting the bill are diminutive playboy millionaire Rusty Trawler (James Bradshaw) and Jose Ybarra-Jaeger (Felix D’Alviella), the future president of Brazil. Even so, as war rages in Europe, Holly begins to fall in love with William, little knowing that her past is about to catch up with her….

Adamson’s adaptation is a much grittier version and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade so there can be no illusions that Holly is anything but a prostitute. And Friel certainly brings a tartiness to the role – aided in part by an abominable blond wig – but her performance failed to convince me that everyone would fall in love with her. Though having said that, the ending, completely different from the film, left me feeling strangely bereft, which can only mean one thing – Friel’s Holly got to me more than I care to admit.

Cross’ William (aka Fred) initially struck me as far too young but I soon realised that this worked very much to his advantage, underlining as it did his naivety – a trait that was never more apparent than in the bathroom scene. So yes, there is nudity and it isn’t just the boys who get a treat seeing a stripped off Holly, it’s us girls too.

There’s good support from James Dreyfus as OJ Berman, a blustering Hollywood producer, and Suzanne Bertish as the elderly and censorious Madame Spanella who clearly has designs on young William. Watch out for her turn on roller skates! And, of course, there’s the cat – a very obedient, fluffy, ginger cat – who sadly doesn’t appear to warrant a mention in the programme. Shame on you!

Anthony Ward’s design is relatively simple, consisting for the most part of two mobile fire escapes and a backlit New York skyline but it’s effective nonetheless. And with Sean Mathias’ direction, it’s good to look at. However, it must be said that with the necessary but frequent scene changes, it occasionally comes across as fragmented and as such, might initially confuse those unfamiliar with the story.

This is not a bad production by any means. Indeed, it has much to commend it. But it’s no use going along to the Theatre Royal Haymarket expecting to see a repeat of the film or you’ll certainly be disappointed. However, go with an open mind and a satisfying evening at the theatre will be your reward.

Read about the cast and creative team