Writer: Truman Capote
Adaptor: Richard Greenberg
Director: Nikolai Foster
Reviewer: Fergus Morgan
If the 1961 film of Breakfast At Tiffany’s turned Truman Capote’s tantalising novella into a rom-com, then Richard Greenberg’s stage adaptation turns it into full-on froth. Although it sticks relatively close to the original plot, Nikolai Foster’s production glides over the nuances and intricacies of Capote’s story, and the result is a monotonic, meaningless drift.
Pop-star Pixie Lott stars as the flighty, flirty Holly Golightly, sensational darling of New York’s café society. Although Audrey Hepburn’s bright, breezy on-screen performance towers over the whole production like the Empire State Building, Lott actually does a good job of making the part her own. With a Cheshire Cat smile, a tinge of Texas drawl in her voice, and a Marilyn Monroe cluster of tight, blonde curls, she’s slinkier, saucier and sneakier than Hepburn.
But Holly Golightly is more than just a seductive glance over sunglasses: she’s a Texan child-bride reinventing herself as a big city socialite, searching for a sense of belonging and blagging her way through life until she finds it. And it’s this vulnerability, lurking beneath all her carefree careening, that lends her mystery. It’s this vulnerability that lifts her from extrovert to enigma. And it’s this vulnerability that Lott catastrophically lacks.
Elsewhere, Matt Barber is miscast as the nameless narrator, a struggling writer into whose life Holly Golightly devastatingly glides. Tall, handsome and charismatic, Barber is a touch too self-assured to make his hapless devotion to Holly convincing, or to suggest the twisted inner turmoil of a writer. Their friendship is a rolling battle between determined martyr and free spirit and, although Barber and Lott capture the unlikely comradeship of two outsiders, they don’t imbue the pair’s more tempestuous moments with much believable passion.
But there is a strong supporting cast: Victor McGuire as a brow-mopping ‘New Yoick’bartender, Naomi Cranston as a vapid social butterfly, and Charlie De Melo as a well-groomed Brazilian diplomat all provide adept performances, as does Robert Calvert, all denim dungarees and how-d’ye-dos as Holly’s ageing, Southern ex-husband Doc.
Greenberg’s adaptation is strongest when Capote’s own dialogue infiltrates the script. When Calvert’s Doc finally elucidates Holly’s past, or when Sevan Stephan’s cigar-chewing film producer rattles on at length about her time in Hollywood, both quoting Capote at length, the piece is lent a three-dimensionality it elsewhere lacks. One leaves admiring not Greenberg’s skill at adaptation, but Capote’s ear for authentic dialogue.
But Matthew Wright’s stripped back, flexible set – a sliding pastiche of iconic mid-20th century New York, all smoke and steel girders – evokes both the splendour and squalor of the city well, and Foster’s direction is snappy and stylish too, even if it never really strays from an ill-judged exuberance. Mic Pool’s ever-present soundscape detracts from the atmosphere, rather than enhancing it.
Runs until 17 November 2016 | Image:Sean Ebsworth Barnes