Breakfast at Tiffany's, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

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The Independent Culture

It is a brave man who takes on Breakfast at Tiffany's – Truman Capote's jewel of a tale and later much-loved movie which cemented Audrey Hepburn as the epitome of Hollywood golden-age glamour – and rejigs it for the stage. And it is a peculiarly heavy-handed man who takes this classic novella – at a mere 91 pages, as elegant and slim as Miss Golightly herself – and turns it into a gruelling two-and-three-quarter hour marathon.

The playwright Samuel Adamson and director Sean Mathias have conspired to reimagine the Manhattan adventures of the eternally flighty Holly Golightly – "top banana in the shock department", wild child turned child bride turned runaway bride, call girl-about- town and gangster's moll – and render them, well, rather dull.

It's not Anna Friel's fault. As our fly-by-night heroine, the elfin actress is, in Holly's own assessment, "infectious". Gorgeously gamine and wrapped, like a treat from Tiffany's, in an array of ever more extravagant cocktail dresses, she's a bewitching presence, at once perilously provocative and child-like.

The action, though, runs as little more than a series of flimsy vignettes – Holly gazing moonily through Tiffany's plate glass window; Holly crooning prettily with her guitar on the fire escape; Holly swilling martinis at a cocktail party; and Holly stripping off, just about as often as the story allows it.

Her fellow denizens of New York are hastily drawn. James Dreyfus gives it his all as cigar-chomping movie mogul O J Berman and John Ramm endows Doc Golightly with a quiet dignity, but the rest are caricatures.

Most problematic is William Parsons, who has been transposed from a finely nuanced narrator into a full-blown leading man. Though Joseph Cross is credible as the simple boy from Alabama, he's too clownish for Holly ever to entertain the idea of true romance.

In William's narration and elsewhere, Mathias has injected an unwelcome note of crude farce, which combines with a clunky set to make this classiest of tales look rather cheap. As all of the ends are diligently and interminably tied up, this is a production, which unlike the divinely restless Holly Golightly, rather outstays its welcome.

To 9 Jan, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1 (0845 481 1870)

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