REVIEW: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Theatre Royal Haymarket) ★★★★★

Pixie Lott as Holly Golightly and Matt Barber as Fred in Breakfast at Tiffany's (Sean Ebsworth Barnes) (2)Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s has seen many incarnations including plays, an un-aired television series and a short lived 1966 musical. Capote’s endearing characters and the beautiful film adaption, starring a young Audrey Hepburn, has inspired generations. Based on Capote’s masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning Finalist and Tony and Olivier Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out, Three Days of Rain) has written this stylish new adaptation with memorable songs from the 1940’s and original music from Grant Olding (One Man, Two Guvnors, RSC’s Don Quixote). This was my first visit to the Theatre Royal Haymarket and I was very excited to see this beloved novella onstage in a production that “is set to capture the hearts of audiences and sparkle like a diamond in a Tiffany’s window.”

Having grown up on the other side of the world in New Zealand, I’m often unaware of many UK celebrities and what they’re known for. This ignorance can be both a good and a bad thing. For example, I often have no preconceived notions of how a celebrity will handle a specific musical score and I find this refreshing as I’m seeing an unbiased performance. Where it’s not such a good thing is when I’m talking to someone and afterwards am told who they are. While I’m happily rabbiting on about something (probably theatre related), they’re undoubtedly thinking, “This idiot has no idea who I am…” So it’s with an unbiased mind that I attended this performance of Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring singer-songwriter actor Pixie Lott as heroine ‘Holly Golightly’ and Matt Barber as ‘Fred’.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is set in 1944, Fred a young author from Louisiana encounters glamorous, charming, witty, vivacious good-time girl Holly Golighty. Holly is one of those people everyone falls in love with and so it seems, does Fred. The only problem is, Fred is poor and Holly has a string of wealthy suitors including a playboy millionaire and the future president of Brazil. As war breaks out in Europe, Holly eventually falls in love with Fred just as her past catches up with her.

Sparkling like a diamond in Tiffany’s window, Pixie Lott shines as ‘Holly Golightly’. Her effervescent, youthful and energetic performance is infectious. She performs three songs during the show, commenting on present action, the desperate ‘Hold Up My Dying Day’ an original by Breakfast at Tiffany’s composer Grant Olding (which sounds like it came right out of a 1940’s blues bar) Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ and beautiful lullaby-like ‘Moon River’. All three songs are a chance for Lott to show us her ‘Holly’ and she accomplishes this with lovely effect. Fans of Lott’s tone and vocal style will not be disappointed and all three songs are a chance for Lott to show us her ‘Holly’, which she accomplishes with lovely affect. Lott has gone back to the text to portray a ‘Holly’ that is thrilling, original and utterly believable as a women any man would fall in love with. As male protagonist ‘Fred’ Matt Barber acts as narrator, often quoting Capote’s prose directly, moving the show along with ease. He commands the stage in every scene and achieves a very real performance as a man finding himself, falling in love with ‘Holly’ and dealing with the inevitable aftermath.

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Victor McGuire, Kathy Allen, Naomi Cranston, Charlie De Melo, Tim Frances, Andrew Joshi, Sevan Stephen, Andy Watkins and Bob The Cat rounded out the cast, playing many characters supporting ‘Holly’ and ‘Fred’s journey. Melanie La Barrie was fun as the roller-skating, faux opera singing, busy-body ‘Mme Spanella’ and Robert Calvert gave a heart breaking performance as ‘Holly’s’ disregarded husband ‘Doc’. Nikolai Foster’s direction was superb, allowing his actors to find their characters and bring a lot of themselves to each part. As an audience member, I felt like I was getting to know two good friends in ‘Holly’ and Fred’ as both Lott and Barber showed vulnerability within their performance which brought both characters to life in a believable and relatable way.

Matthew Wright’s design was dazzling, using a combination of video projections to help ‘Holly’ travel around New York. An ever-present 1940s New York skyline provided a backdrop for the show. Seen through set windows, this black and white image had wonderful effect in setting the place and time of the show and gave the production a nostalgic ‘love-letter to New York’ style and feel. Another wonderful projection transported the audience to the Brooklyn Bridge, while ‘Holly’ sang Oklahoma hit ‘People Will say We’re in Love’, a moment that really made me feel I was in New York. To close the play, the projection created a closing spot on Matt Barber’s ‘Fred’ and cinematically closed to black. Something I hadn’t seen achieved on the stage before and it was the cherry on top of a simple yet very effective and wonderfully executed production design.

Of all his characters, Capote said, ‘Holly’ was his favourite. There’s been much speculation as to who ‘Holly’ and was based on and realistically, ‘Holly’ could have been based on a plethora of society girls Capote knew. Christopher Isherwood was Capote’s mentor and ‘Holly’ is often referred to as Capote’s ‘Sally Bowles’. In such a theatrical setting, the parallels between ‘Sally’ and ‘Holly’ are amplified however this production and Pixie Lott’s performance are wholly original. Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the beautiful Theatre Royal Haymarket is a testament to Capote’s endearing masterpiece. Encompassing 1940’s Manhattan, the brilliant storytelling, atmospheric music and strong performances make this adaption of Breakfast at Tiffany’s achieve enormous amounts of grace and style.

Reviewed by Stuart James
Photos: Sean Ebsworth Barnes

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 17 September 2016. Tickets