Breakfast at Tiffany's fails to ignite

PUBLISHED: 16:31 15 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:29 07 September 2010

This isn't the first time that trading on affection for a Hollywood classic has fallen flat in the West End. A few years back, Darryl Hannah inevitably failed to recreate Monroe s sexually-charged star wa

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Haymarket Theatre

One star

This isn't the first time that trading on affection for a Hollywood classic has fallen flat in the West End. A few years back, Darryl Hannah inevitably failed to recreate Monroe's sexually-charged star wattage in The Seven Year Itch. Now, despite a committed, technically proficient performance, Anna Friel struggles under the shadow cast by Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of New York socialite Holly Golightly.

Both stories are now dated, but titillated 50s America with risqué kooky female characters; their screen incarnations heavily reliant on Hollywood stardust to paper over narrative deficiencies. (Hepburn as former Texan teenage bride Lula Mae? Please!)

While adaptor Samuel Adamson has nobly returned to Truman Capote's 1958 novella to add punch to this revival, the charm of the source material proves elusive and the two hour plus traffic frankly drags.

The unfocused plot centres around the shock return of Holly's Texan husband, her ill-advised visits to a drug trafficker in Sing Sing that get her arrested and her love for a rich Brazilian who abandons her.

But it is the figure of the elusively unknowable, frustratingly charismatic, restlessly self-inventing Holly who must hold it together

Friel is more knowing escort girl than Hepburn's charmingly naïve eccentric, but if, like me, you remain stony-hearted through her tough but vulnerable, self-consciously wild and crazy, Sally Bowles shtick, then all is lost.

Joseph Cross is terribly young to play William Parsons, the successful middle-aged novelist looking back from the 50s at his war-time experiences in a New York brownstone where Holly is a tenant.

"You're the cleverest person I know," she tells the budding writer. Sadly there's nothing in either script or performance to back this up, but he ably suggests William's sexual ambivalence and fumbling to articulate different kinds of love.

Director Sean Mathias tries to fill the space by peopling 1940s New York's social scene with absurdly huge performances; James Dreyfus is a fat bellowing Hollywood agent and Suzanne Bertish a roller-skating, opera yodelling, landlady who hurls abuse at Holly. Just like the gratuitous nude scenes, it reeks of desperation. As Holly would say: "What a bore darling."

Bridget Galton

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