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A CurtainUp London Review
Breakfast at Tiffany's
The play is performed in flashback from 1957 as ingénue William Parsons (Joseph Cross), a writer from the South, looks back at the apartment block where he first met the enigmatic, kittenish Miss Golightly. We go back to 1943 to the middle of the war and Holly, dressed in a towel or was it a bathrobe, I forget, seeks asylum from a man she has brought back to her adjoining apartment. We accompany her on her social whirl taking in imprisoned mafia supremo, Sally Tomato (John Ramm) and party animal and Hollywood agent, OJ Berman (James Dreyfus), boyfriends Sid Arbuck (David Phelan) and Rusty Trawler (James Bradshaw). One of her neighbours, the eccentric, wild wiry haired, opera singer, Madame Spanella (Suzanne Bertish) campaigns for Holly's eviction.
The adaptation has tried to show the poverty struck background of the ambitious, New York socialite Holly with the appearance in New York of her Texan husband Doc Golightly (John Ramm) whom as Lula Mae she married at 14. She seems genuinely pleased to see the Doc who rescued Holly and her brother, Fred as children. Fred sadly dies in the war. But even the news of this tragedy does not have us engaging emotionally with the blonde ringletted Anna Friel (a natural brunette) who is rarely seen without her (prescription) sunglasses. The blonde curls are in the original novella but the short blonde wig for Friel is a disaster! And why do all the theatre posters show her as a brunette if not to play on the Hepburn film?
This is a truly attractive production from the pre-play onstage window with Tiffany & Co in mirror writing where we must be on the inside of the famous jewellery shop looking out. Suddenly people scurry self consciously with umbrellas and the grey sky parts, revealing blue sky with white clouds, completing the Magritte design allusion. The silhouetted Manhattan Skyline appears in every scene, in every colour way, even turned upside down in a watery reflection, almost the only reminder that this is New York. It's just as well that we have this backdrop because the accents don't fix us there. The two white fire escape staircases frame the set prosaically and may be recycled from the London production of Rent which is probably where the modern day Golightly would live.
OJ Berman does his best to get the party going with a parade of extravagant models wearing haute couture, including the exotically tall (6 feet 4½i nches) Gwendoline Christie as Mag Wildwood. Put this girl in high heels with platform soles and she almost hits her head on the top of each flight of the fire escape but she is riveting!
It is either the acting or the insubstantiality of the storyline which fails to involve. Friel does her nude scene beautifully on her front with her delicious rear in view on the sofa and at least one male critic has found this disarming. Too much of her part calls for her to flit in and out collecting $50 for the powder room or $100 a week for acting as a go between for the Mafia and her accent seesaws between something American and lapsing into her native Mancunian. Joseph Cross is dull as the wannabe boyfriend William whom everyone calls Fred. Dermot Crowley is good as the barman devoted to Holly. We are told Holly's lovers have to be at least 42 by which she of course means rich. James Dreyfus is excellent in too small a part to sadly really impact on the show. There is a little music and songs from Anna Friel with a guitar are pretty enough but not really West End show material and there is no "Moon River".
Sadly this Breakfast at Tiffany's is more zircon than diamond.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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