Writer: Adapted by Richard Greenberg from the novella by Truman Capote
Music: Grant Olding
Director: Nikolai Foster
Choreographer: Melanie Knott
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
The author of the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote, is often quoted to be the godfather of celebrity culture, and as such deserves his place in posterity. Standing at only 5’3″ he was a giant of a man amid sophisticated American society. Openly homosexual in difficult times, he was sure of his vocation as a writer and rose easily above a difficult childhood to take his place as one of America’s best-known socialites of his time. Some of his writing was partly factual, for example In Cold Blood was based on an actual mass murder at a remote farm in West Kansas, but other examples of his work, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, were largely commentaries on how life was lived in the USA of Capote’s time.
The current touring production of Breakfast is both new and traditional. Any preconceived images of the well-known film from 1961 starring the iconic Audrey Hepburn must be forgotten. Hepburn was a legend in her own right, and no one can emulate her effortless elegance in a simple black dress, dark hair neatly swept up and a stylish cigarette holder in one perfectly manicured hand. Georgia May Foote in the role of Holly Golightly is no doubt talented, but never quite achieves the style necessary for this unique enigmatic role. Her costumes are truly wonderful, with every outfit (and there are many) worthy of a Paris catwalk of the time, but one has to wonder why the blonde wig was added.
Much of the action takes place in a rundown apartment block in New York. Fred, a young writer played brilliantly by Matt Barber of Downton Abbey fame, acts as the narrator and begins when he moves into a shabby upstairs apartment in the block. He meets Holly who works as an expensive escort and is searching for a rich, older man to marry. Fred is instantly captivated and fascinated by this exquisite extrovert and her fantastical lifestyle, to the extent that his life is taken over by his obsession for her. There are scenes in the local bar talking about Holly’s life and whereabouts with Joe the bartender (aka Victor McGuire) and Jose a friend of hers (played by Charlie De Melo). In a surprise development, Fred meets Doc (actor Robert Calvert) who featured in another chapter of Holly’s life when there was no glamour and sophistication, just loads of magazines to feed her dreams and a guitar to accompany her soulful ballads. Gradually the suspicion of extreme sadness linked to her beloved brother Frank emerges, to illustrate that Holly is not merely a social butterfly without a care in the world. The nightmares and breakdown ultimately reveal her hidden heartache.
The set is very cleverly constructed, and the pouring rain totally convincing. Famous New York scenes are used as backdrops, and the apartment block consists of separate parts lowered in to form a swanky lower flat (Holly’s), a grim upper-level room (Fred’s), and a row of front doors. Joe’s bar looks solid and is well furnished with glasses and stock. Despite all the glamour of the set and the costumes; however, for some of the audience the complete highlight of the evening is Cat, played by Bob, a former resident of an animal rescue centre in Surrey. This magnificent long-haired feline specimen is truly amazing. How on earth can anyone train a cat to tread the boards?
Treat yourself to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There is somehow a feeling that the legend of the story is greater than the actual experience, but while fidgeting a little through the long monologues delivered in an often toneless American drawl, there is a chance to peep into the fascinating world of 1940s New York where no one is quite what they appear, and both squalor and glamour lurk in equal measure around every corner. Yes, Truman Capote is still captivating audiences, even from the grave.
Runs until 22 October 2016 | Image: Sean Ebsworth Barnes