When the cat in a play upstages the actors by doing next to nothing, you can safely claim that your visit to the theatre has been a big disappointment - unless you are a confirmed ailurophile with little thespian interest.
In the touring production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, visiting Brighton this week, Bob the rescue cat has such a murderous expression on his face throughout that you can only wonder if he wishes he’d stuck with the Petplan ads.
The award-winning 1961 film version of Truman Capote’s highly praised novella admittedly took liberties with the story and it is to Richard Greenberg’s credit that in his adaptation he has stayed a lot closer to the plot of the original (retaining its 1940s setting, for example).
But it is simply not good enough to claim – as do too many writers, directors and producers these days – that they want to reintroduce audiences to the source material and hope they’ll expunge from their minds even a classic film version when the play includes so many nods to its big screen counterpart.
It may even be that it’s impossible to transport Capote’s colourful characters to stage or screen, which is why the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s changed time period, plot and ending.
Whatever the case, director Nikolai Foster and a generally competent cast never once find the depth and sparkle to make the story or characters shine. However hard some of the cast may work, there is so little charisma present that none of the characters ever come to life or become likeable and even Matthew Wright’s uninteresting New York set becomes irritating as apartment doors are flown in once too often and other furniture is almost shoved onto the stage.
Publicity pictures show Georgia May Foote’s Holly Golightly as glamorous in a style to rival Audrey Hepburn’s iconic film portrayal. However, Miss Foote actually appears as a blonde, which is probably closer to Capote’s vision of the character, not least as he wished the part to be played by Marilyn Monroe. While Hepburn’s portrayal won her plaudits and is probably one of her finest acting roles, Foote’s Holly is an annoying brat rather than the required eccentric socialite dreamer who has tried to shake off her southern states roots. There is little of the wide-eyed and outspoken nature which gives Holly such an intriguing charm and it’s hard to see why so many men would want to fall at her feet.
Lines are delivered with little comprehension of their importance, and her performance of the famous song Moon River is stuck into Act Two with no reference to anything so that all in all one feels her aspirations to a breakfast at Tiffany’s store are more likely to be a cold coffee and a croissant at Costas.
Matt Barber tries very hard indeed as the narrator “Fred,” whose experiences with Holly and his attempts to have his books published drive the action and bind together several plot strands, but neither he nor other cast members are truly allowed to inhabit their roles, and that must be the fault of the script rather than a comment on their obvious abilities.
Rather than being a glittering Tiffany diamond this production is so lightweight and half-hearted that it might just as well be an uncrafted mass of granite, with Bob the cat providing the only piece of fluff.