Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Touring Production)

Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s was brought gracefully to life in Richard Greenberg’s adaptation in the touring production, starring Emily Atack as Holly Golightly and Matt Barber as Fred. This story clearly reflects Capote’s own lifestyle of gossip, glamour and cocktail parties. Not only this, but there are a lot of parallels between himself and Fred; both of them struggling writers who found trouble in their respective newspaper publishing houses. You can really sense Capote’s heart and soul within this story, which explains why it has resonated through generations.

The main thing I appreciated about this adaptation was that it didn’t shy away from the gritty and melancholy truth of the story. Although hopelessly lovable, the 1961 film sugar-coated the poverty and desperation experienced by the two protagonists, and swerved the bitter-sweet ending replacing it with the typically romanticised Hollywood kiss.

At first, Holly and Fred couldn’t be more different; Holly, the fun-loving, extroverted girl about town and Fred the brooding, introverted writer. Nevertheless, their lives are practically mirrored throughout as they are both forced to sleep and charm their way to the top. Emily Atack, best known for her role as Charlotte Hinchcliffe in The Inbetweeners played a very convincing Holly with her light and airy movements, charming smile and stunning singing voice. She sang all three songs in the show, one of them of course being the dreamy ‘Moon River’; her voice had a slight pop influence which brought it into the 21st Century, and she showed off some rather impressive vocal runs, as well as a little guitar playing. Overall, I was very impressed with her performance. The only thing I would comment on was that her accent took a little while to warm up; she sounded obviously American in the first scene, then slipped into British in the next, attempting to perfect the posh American accent that the character had been trained in. However, beyond the second scene, Atack was flying and everything about her performance was on-point.

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Matt Barber and Emily Atack as Fred and Holly. (Sourced from the Bath Chronicle Website)

Matt Barber, best known for his role as the dashing Atticus Aldridge in Downton Abbey played Fred. He seamlessly narrated the story; sharing his woes as a writer, his obsession with Holly and his darker moments through his quest for success. He didn’t simply stick to the introverted writer stereotype, but branched out with confidence; standing up to Holly’s selfish behaviour. Like Capote, Fred shows homosexual tendencies, which was very much hidden in the film.

Naturally, there was a real life cat that (almost) stole the show! Bob the cat was greeted to the stage with a chorus of “awws”, startling him at first; poor Fred had to try and keep him from running off stage. I honestly couldn’t tell you what conversations occurred in that scene; I was completely transfixed to the fluff ball.

On another note, thanks to designer Matthew Wright the set was simply gorgeous and truly captured the grittiness of the play. It wasn’t overly complicated and didn’t detract from the action at all; all the transitions were perfectly smooth. I also appreciated the spotlights used throughout; they had an art-deco edge around them, subtly alluding to the style and time of the play. Oh, and naturally the costumes were to die for; Holly had a different outfit for practically every scene and oozed class every time.

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Emily Atack with Bob the cat. (Sourced from the Bath Chronicle website)

Nevertheless, there were some drawbacks to the production. The play was advertised as showcasing ‘memorable songs from the era’, almost passing it off as jukebox style musical…which it obviously wasn’t (it’s a pretty dark tale). There were only three songs in the show, and although beautifully performed, I wouldn’t describe them as being ‘upbeat’. I can imagine that if you bought tickets with the intention of seeing a play with some lively songs from the era, you’d be a little disappointed, (which is what I gathered from a conversation I overheard as I left). Furthermore, on the subject of liveliness, I couldn’t help but feel that the party scenes lacked, well…life. Before the iconic party in Holly’s apartment, Fred announces that ‘the whole of Manhattan were there’, yet only a handful of people were on the stage. There wasn’t even a great deal of upbeat party music or any sort of ‘buzz’ for that matter. I understand that with a touring company, there’s only so many cast members you can afford to have, so in that case, adding some more jazzy music and a ‘bustling party’ sound effect in the background would have livened the whole scene up a bit. After all, Capote was known to be a bit of a party planner himself.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this production. Breakfast at Tiffany’s has always been a film close to my heart, so I wasn’t sure how I would react to this adaptation. For one, I appreciated discovering more about Fred’s back story, which was practically ignored in the film. Although the ‘Hollywood’ ending was absent, I felt that the bitter-sweet tone fit in with the whole ambience of the play.

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