Sunday, 8 November 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's

We were in London yesterday to see Anna Friel in Breakfast at Tiffany's at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. The play was directed by Sean Mathias, whose Waiting for Godot we saw at the same theatre earlier this year, and it was characterised by similarly imaginative and innovative staging. Although this production goes back to the original Capote story (which I have to confess, I haven't read), which is apparently grittier than the universally-known Blake Edwards film, it's really difficult to get Audrey Hepburn's iconic performance out of your head - and to avoid comparisons.

Anna Friel turns in a spirited and energetic performance, and she is always (as they say) easy on the eye, but she lacks the magical elusiveness and lightness of touch of Hepburn. I'm no expert, but I'd say her accent was a little strained at times, and as often happens, you get the impression that studied attention to the externalities of the character has meant less work on the more internal aspects.

Playing opposite her as the aspiring writer, Joseph Cross (seen most recently alongside Sean Penn in Milk) was also impressive, but one of the problems with the production is that there is insufficient contrast between the two main characters. Whereas in the movie the wry, if naive urbanity of the writer contrasts with the many-layered mystery of Miss Holly Golightly, here they are too similar in their out-of-town newness, pushiness and emotional flightiness.

The cast members worked their socks off, with most of them playing two or three parts. Thank goodness they decided not to repeat Mickey Rooney's offensive cartoon Chinaman in the portrayal of landlord Mr. Yonioshi. Among the supporting cast, Dermot Crowley's performance as dependable but Holly-obsessed barman Joe Bell stood out as particularly memorable..

All in all, it was an absorbing and thought-provoking afternoon in the theatre. And London itself looked autumnally beautiful yesterday, with the newly-restored whiteness of St. Martin in the Fields gleaming in the afternoon sunshine, and Quakers and soldiers mingling peacefully in contrasting Remembrance weekend demonstrations in Trafalgar Square, as we walked to the theatre. The woman who does those imitations of Renaissance paintings in chalk was, as always, on the pavement outside the National Gallery - and, as always, we didn't catch her actually doing any chalking. My son has the idea of setting up a webcam in the square to prove that she doesn't produce the pictures herself - but instead arrives before the crowds, tapes down the finished product, scatters a few chalks around and waits for the beguiled tourists to fill her hat with coins.


Anonymous said...

The only thing more offensive than Mickey Rooney's role in Breakfast At Tiffany's is a blogger who still uses the word CHINAMAN. Also, I'm sure they all look alike to you, but Mr. Yunioshi was Japanese.

Martin said...

Aw, come on - a commenter who can't detect irony? 'Cartoon Chinaman' is a stock phrase that is absolutely accurate in describing Rooney's offensively racist portrayal. And yes, of course I knpw that Yanioshi was Japanese - but that's precisely the point - the film was so racially insensitive that it showed him as a stereotypical 'Oriental'.

Try to avoid picking up on phrases out of context and instead take note of the overall import of a blog post - before you make sweeping accusations.