The Theatreguide.London Review
Haymarket Theatre Summer 2016
There were noticeably fewer people in the audience after the interval of this new production of Breakfast At Tiffany's than there were during the first act. 'Nuff said, perhaps, about this lifeless show.
Truman Capote's novella is about a young would-be writer who comes to New York City in the 1940s and falls under the spell of a woman of irresistible charm and quirky personality.
Even the realisation that she is what the era called a 'party girl', if not quite a prostitute than at least one who chose her gentlemen friends by their generosity with gifts, and the discovery of her very mundane and unglamorous roots can't break her power, and the narrator and most other men in her circle remain haunted by her long after she has left the scene.
How do you dramatise the ineffable quality of Holly Golightly that is the whole point of the story?
One route would be to cast an actress of unconventional but overpowering beauty and charm – someone, say, like Audrey Hepburn – and let the actress seduce the audience the way the character bewitches her men.
Another would be to write and direct a stage adaptation in ways that take us deeper into Holly than the story does, winning audience sympathy and understanding for her.
That turns out to not be a good idea. The more we 'understand' Holly, the less elusive and more ordinary she becomes, and attempts to give the character soft qualities that are not in Capote's image merely create internal contradictions.
So the Holly Golightly of Richard Greenberg's stage adaptation, Nikolai Foster's direction and Pixie Lott's performance is not elusively unknowable, but just a jumble of quirks and qualities that don't fit together.
And a Holly Golightly who doesn't capture us with her mystery makes for a Breakfast At Tiffany's that just slogs along purposelessly.
I can give you a catalogue of small errors of judgement, no one of them disastrous but combining to keep the play from succeeding. Because Pixie Lott is a singer, Holly stops the action cold a few times to sing some plaintive songs, most unwisely (because it just reminds us of the film) including Moon River.
But the essence of Holly Golightly is in her image, and showing us some sadness or depth behind the facade doesn't enrich the characterisation, but just makes her more ordinary and uninteresting.
Much of the time Lott as Holly gives the impression of a little girl trying to play Betty Boop, which might also be a directorial choice since Holly is, as we will discover, always playing a role.
But when everyone else, including all Holly's gentlemen callers and even Matt Barber as the writer, are directed to play cartoonish stereotypes as well, any subtle insight into Holly that may have been intended is lost.
I could go on, but why bother? Either the playwright's misjudgements, the director's misinterpretations or the actress's limitations (and why blame her alone when no one else is much better?) mean that far too little of what made Capote's story a classic comes through.
Nobody onstage comes out looking particularly impressive here. But Pixie Lott is a popular singer and Matt Barber was in Downton Abbey on TV, and their fans may get all they want just by seeing them in person.
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