A whirlwind of glamour and vibrant dresses, Breakfast At Tiffany’s is the iconic tale of the frivolous Holly Golightly who lives a hectic life in Manhattan… funded by her relations with many rich men.

Having not read Truman Capote’s novella and only watching the film once many years ago, I was not sure what to expect from Nikolai Foster’s touring production. But sadly, I was disappointed. This is due to Richard Greenberg’s script moving too quickly from each event within the play’s narrative to another. I even had to Google a plot summary when I left the Theatre Royal in order to understand what actually happened. The script skims over the different men in Holly’s life too swiftly to care who they are and understand what purpose they serve, and even the appearance of Holly’s long-lost husband is confined to one scene at the beginning of Act Two. The play focuses far too much on trivial aspects of Holly’s life and her profound ideas about women wearing lipstick and the solace she finds in eating breakfast at the jewellery store, Tiffany’s.

The play is shepherded by an unnamed narrator, played by Downton Abbey’s Matt Barber, and the fact that the character is unnamed adds to his lack of identity. Barber flippantly switches between a smooth, confident narrator who speaks directly to the audience and a manic, unpredictable man whose place in the story is hard to perceive. Barber had some difficulty with maintaining his generic American accent at times, and needed more direction in making a distinct character choice because his portrayal seemed a little confused.

“Atack does have a beautiful singing voice and her performance can only improve as the run continues”

Holly Golightly is played by Emily Atack in her stage debut and although she brings a lot of energy to the stage, her portrayal falls flat. She lacks chemistry with Barber’s narrator and sometimes delivered her lines too quickly to completely understand what was being said. Having said this, Atack does have a beautiful singing voice and her performance can only improve as the run continues.

There seemed to be a few issues with the mobile staging; there were several moments throughout the show where the windows and furniture needed for the scenes located in Holly’s apartment were visible from the wings, and made distracting banging noises as they were prepared to be moved onto the stage. But generally, the aesthetic – in particular Matthew Wright’s stunning costumes – enhanced the portrayal of this 1940s American drama.

“The script is the key weakness of this production, amplified by simple mistakes in staging”

One of the main strengths of this production was its lighting, designed by Ben Cracknell. The use of follow spots created interesting scene transitions, as the audience’s attention was focused on the narrator who continued performing – rather than a standard blackout. Cracknell’s use of coloured lighting added warmth and tone to the performance, for example bright yellow lights were used for sunbathing scenes and disco lights were the backdrop of the party scenes. However, I was sat below one of the lights used to depict rain and the whirring noises it made were so loud I found it difficult to hear the actors on stage during the more emotionally intimate moments.

Overall, the script is the key weakness of this production, amplified by simple mistakes in staging. I think this production will attract large audiences due to the popularity of Blake Edwards’ 1961 film of the same name, though the narrative struggles to translate on to the stage. The lack of any standout or overarching theme and an array of unconvincing characters meant that it was difficult to grasp the play as a whole.


Lou Knapp

‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ is running until Saturday 14th May. For more info, see here.

Image Credit: Sean Ebsworth Barne via Theatre Royal

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