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Breakfast at Tiffany’s review at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London – ‘dull’

Pixie Lott in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Photo: Sean Ebsworth Barnes Pixie Lott in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Photo: Sean Ebsworth Barnes
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“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” That’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s writer, Truman Capote, as quoted in the programme. I’m afraid that if he saw the dog’s dinner of a play that has been fashioned from his 1958 novella he might have revised that. This is an immodestly bad production of his work, through which a clunky, episodic narrative structure has surgically removed all semblance of charm or quirky wit.

Just seven years ago another adaptation by London-based playwright Samuel Adamson played at this same address, and was notable for an appearance by Anna Friel as Holly Golightly that Charles Spencer dubbed “the sexiest performance I have seen on stage since Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room”. This time around the adaptation is by the usually witty and thoughtful Broadway scribe Richard Greenberg, but he is defeated at every turn – especially by the leading turn of the vastly inexperienced pop star Pixie Lott.

Holly Golightly should be intoxicating, yet somehow unknowable: a woman who draws men around her instinctively, but doesn’t know quite what to do with them when she gets them. She’s a player and a user, a Texan-born hick who becomes a New York society girl. Fred, a gay writer and neighbour in the rooming house she lives in, falls under her spell.

It’s not a million miles from the Sally Bowles story charted by Christopher Isherwood that became the basis for the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret; it also echoes the plays of Tennessee Williams with Fred narrating and chronicling Golightly’s story while also participating in it.

But those literary precedents would be hugely welcome here, as would the charisma of a Liza Minnelli (the original screen Sally Bowles). Instead, however, we’re served a cliche-ridden mess of dull scenes, and duller performances. Lott’s performance is all one-note, except when she employs a few more to sing some gratuitously inserted classics – Moon River; the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard People Will Say We’re in Love – which at least play to her only strengths as a stage personality.

As the everyman writer Fred, Matt Barber has some more effective moments, but he cuts an isolated figure on stage, having no one to spark with.

It all feels intensely mechanical, and even reliable West End regulars such as Melanie La Barrie and Sevan Stephan are forced into uncomfortable caricatures. The only truly truthful performance comes from the seemingly unphased, and appropriately unengaged, Bob the Cat.

No wonder the producers have contrived to keep the press away for so long. The show began a regional try-out at Curve in Leicester in March, and has toured since, before beginning a full month of previews. It only has eight weeks more to run. And it truly can’t end soon enough.

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A commercially cynical attempt to marry a well-known title to a star casting falls completely flat