Breakfast at Tiffany's
Truman Capote, stage adaptation by Samuel Adamson
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
At the risk of introducing a hackneyed metaphor, the stage version of Breakfast at Tiffany's might easily be compared to a traditional bridal costume. Director Sean Mathias and his adapter Samuel Adamson offer us something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
The old is sheer, old-fashioned sex appeal provided by the gorgeous Anna Friel and her well-matched partner, American screen star Joseph Cross.
The new might be the start of a worrying trend as, rather than financing the show through traditional angels, the producers have introduced a corporate sponsor (the makers of a black raspberry liqueur) along TV or sporting lines. It seems inevitable that in future, big shows will carry the names of major companies so that Rolls-Royce might attach itself to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Lehman Brothers to Enron (had they both not gone bust).
The borrowed is inevitably the story, although, as with the recent West End adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption, the creative team have gone back to the original source book, Truman Capote's novella rather than the iconic Blake Edwards comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. On balance, although the story is darker and loses fantasy for at least a little more grim reality, this may not go down well with devotees of one of the most popular films ever made.
The blue is gratuitous nudity presented separately by the leads, presumably in an attempt to ensure that this big theatre sells out every night of a four-month run (including previews) that stretches into the New Year. Where Sean Mathias' star-studded revival of Waiting for Godot effortlessly packed out the lovely old Haymarket Theatre without lowering ticket prices, this time around he might have more of a struggle on his hands.
Breakfast at Tiffany's concentrates almost entirely on its two central characters. Within Anthony Ward's attractive, traditional set featuring a romantic Manhattan skyline, we are theoretically taken back to the 1940s, although Adamson's tough talking characters could as easily have lived today.
Anna Friel, whose accent rather endearingly travels around the English-speaking world, plays a brash, blonde Holly (Holiday) Golightly. While remaining a free spirit, she is far more knowing than her screen equivalent, seemingly happy to do pretty much anything to get herself a life of luxury with a stinking rich husband.
The innocence on this occasion lies almost entirely with the young writer who moves into her apartment block, Cross's William Parsons or Fred as he quickly becomes known.
Cross, who seemed nervous at the start on opening night, is only 23 and managed to inject a gaucheness into his character that is rather charming and makes him a good comic foil for the gorgeous femme fatale.
The pair run through a stream of unlikely adventures in a series of very short film-like scenes that give few of the supporting actors the chance to shine. They are best represented by Susanne Bertish as an over the top, sex-deprived neighbour, and John Ramm in the dual roles of gangster Sally Tomato and Holly's long-suffering husband. Even the popular James Dreyfus has been called in for an all too brief chance to show off his trademark disdain as a literary agent. There is also the compulsory lovely, if rather sleepy, marmalade cat for those so inclined to drool over.
The odds are that audiences will book tickets to see Breakfast at Tiffany's either because they want to relive the movie, in which case they might be a little disappointed by this harder edged story that lacks the romance of the silver screen, or to get a stage glimpse of their screen heroes.
The odds are that this possibly younger grouping, who may not even have seen a film that is not far short of 50 years old, might come away rather more enthused from two and a half hours of old-fashioned escapism that could easily have ended with Holly Golightly succumbing to love and wearing that bridal trousseau.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher