‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is a classic story of a lonely girl in ‘the big city’. The play is based on the daring, sad and cynical novella by Truman Capote which has been accurately adapted for the stage by Richard Greenburg.
In the saccharine-sweet but charming 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn, much of Holly’s tragic life was too well hidden. Audrey was nominated for an Oscar, but it was Henry Mancini that won the film’s two Oscars; the first for his musical score, then along with lyricist Johnny Mercer for the memorable song ‘Moon River’.
Although the film still is one of my favourites, perhaps it is because I drool over Audrey, the direction was terrible. Blake Edwards has directed some of the cinema’s funniest comedies e.g. the ‘Pink Panther’ series with Peter Sellars, but in the film he produced one of cinema’s worst performances (and most racist) with Mickey Rooney playing the Japanese neighbour Mr Yunioshi. Holly’s troubled lonely soul was totally missed in the film. The good news is that director Sean has given us the faithful but heavier and tragic story that Capote wrote.
This sentimental delight can be seen at the Harbour Theatre, within Camelot Theatre (Mosman Park Memorial Hall), 16 Lochee Street in Mosman Park. The two and a quarter hour performances have curtain-up at 7.30 on Friday 31st July and Saturday 1st August then from Wednesday 5th until Saturday 8th. . There are also matinées at 2.00 pm on August the 2nd and 9th.
The scene: a damp and basic apartment in Upper East Side New York. The book – written in 1954 – is set in Autumn 1943, but like the film I suspect this adaptation was a decade later.
The set: Was a large room with a small window leading onto the fire escape. To the left was a large double bed and bedside table. Centre stage was a dining table and chairs. Against the wall was a bookcase with a single book. A chaise longue sat near the door. On the right was the front door leading onto a dingy, internal staircase.
The inventive lighting was designed by Rob Tagliaferri and assisted in operation by Jayden Timms. With the two flats (Fred’s and Holly’s) being the same set and furniture, the lighting helped create the two venues most effectively. The smooth musical selection – in the style of Glen Miller (do not expect Mancini’s copyrighted pieces) were chosen by Shaun and Tim. The fine sound designer and operator was Vanessa Gudgeon
The exceptionally well-planned and efficient stage management was by Jodie Cornwall-Sweetman and her assistant Bryan Chin. The cast had many incredibly fast costume changes, with Holly especially exiting the stage and entering seconds later in a complete change. Brilliant.
A shy and withdrawn author called Paul, but later renamed by Holly as Fred (Jacob Lane) narrates the tale. The opening scene is a seedy Manhattan bar, where barman Joe (Robert Jackson) and an editor (Shaun Griffin) discuss with Fred how hard business is. On returning to his flat, Fred is resting on the bed when an unknown girl, Holly Golightly (Jessie Bailey) climbs through the bedroom window and starts talking to the author. She has a very posh but false English accent, which was thrust upon her by her stylist and agent (perhaps read ‘pimp’). Holly explains she escorts wealthy men to restaurants for company and in the hope of marrying one.
On the next floor of the block of flats is famous photographer, Mr Yunioshi (Glenn Rykenrapp) and his neighbour, private music teacher (Sylvia Mellor) who demands perfect silence for her students’ lessons.
Holly always has an enigmatic smile and beguiling allure as she surreptitiously researches her new companion’s soul, whilst being ultracareful not to give away anything about her own past life. Can no one crack her pseudo-personality?
Fred notices that Holly has a regular mysterious Brazilian caller, José (Romano De Gois). In a desperate attempt to find a wealthy man, Holly invites along anyone who wants to come to her party. Her guests include her wild and flirtatious friend, Mag (Kayti Murphy) and America’s richest man, who is a bigot and fascist, Rusty (Charlie Young) – remind you of anyone? However, it is Cat, the nameless feline (King – what a star, so well behaved) that is Holly’s true love and steals the scene.
Fred is happy at his work but thanks to various rumours he is called to the office of the head printing supervisor (Rach Gilmour).
A few days later, Doc (Tim Prosser) who is someone from her past, calls at the flat. Suddenly a cop (Bryan Chin) arrives to make an arrest.
Talented director Shaun Griffin has obviously researched the book and the various productions extensively. He has found every little nuance of Holly’s character and fully understood Capote’s richly written book. His cast have fully understood what was expected of them. Sean’s assistant director Rach Gilmour has blossomed, her acting was excellent and her directing skills advancing.
Sean has chosen a great cast. The two leads were both in their first major parts. Jessie is still under 20 and showed great maturity. Her accent and intonation were both grating, but this is exactly what this false woman was all about. Nothing about Holly was genuine. Her guitar solo was beautifully delivered with a sweet voice accompaniment.
Likewise, Jacob was an exceptional find. The cast all had subtle hints of New York accents. Thankfully, Glenn played the Asian photographer with restraint and no humour implied. Generously, Sean had selected several actors that I had not seen on stage for some time, but the whole cast worked as a close team, word perfect and with a cracking pace that kept the audience engrossed.
This NOT a fluffy version like the movie but an accurate version of the tragic book by a dedicated team. Many congratulations, highly recommended.
Tickets at TAZ. Due to social distancing, this show has only half the usual number of seats, so book early.