‘It’s exciting and terrifying’ - Corrie star Georgia May Foote on making her stage debut in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
- Credit: Archant
Playing Holly Golightly, the good time girl from Breakfast at Tiffany's, is tough for any actress in the shadow of Audrey Hepburn, particularly if it is your stage debut. Coronation Street and Strictly star Georgia May Foote, reveals what it's like to follow in the footsteps of an icon.
Deliciously enigmatic Holly Golightly, the New York good-time girl at the centre of Truman Capote's classic novella Breakfast at Tiffany's is a dream role for any young actress.
The classic tale of Holly and a young writer from Louisiana (who is never named, but everyone calls Fred), was memorably portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in the iconic 1961 film, but has now been given a new lease of life as a stage play with music.
The story has a chequered stage history. A 1966 musical starring Mary Tyler Moore flopped on Broadway. Anna Friel took on the part in a version by Samuel Adamson, which ran in the West End in 2009 which enjoyed mixed reviews.
This latest production, adapted by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony and Olivier Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg and directed by Nikolai Foster, has already enjoyed more success though.
It was first seen on Broadway in 2013 with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as Holly and more recently Pixie Lott took on the role in the West End.
Now it arrives at Norwich Theatre Royal next week with Coronation Street star and Strictly Come Dancing runner-up Georgia May Foote stepping into this iconic role in a sparkling, sophisticated production.
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The role of Holly is a brave one for an actress to take on. There is the obvious problem of how to deal with the shadow cast by Hepburn's luminescent film performance.
It particularly daunting for Georgia as this is her stage debut in a play. 'It's exciting but also terrifying,' she admits when she speak to me during rehearsals. 'I'm so used to television and getting a second chance at everything that this is all new to me, having to get it right at the first go. It's nice to learn something new though.
'Theatre is something I'd always wanted to try because I've spent my whole life, since I was nine, in telly so the opportunity to do something different has always appealed. Strictly really gave me the confidence to do it. After that, being in front of that live audience every week, it left me thinking 'yes, I'd love to do more'. So when I got the call for this I was really excited.'
On how you deal with a problem like Hepburn, she has a novel solution — she has never seen the film and has no intention of doing so until after the tour is over.
'Audrey Hepburn is obviously someone that everyone knows and Holly Golightly is one of her most iconic roles, but I am playing her a little different to how Audrey did, it much more based around how she is written in the book. It is a really good adaptation by Richard Greenberg and so people will perhaps see a different Holly from the one they saw in the film, one closer to the book. Hopefully - we'll see how it goes!'
She adds: 'I was obviously aware of the film, because I think everyone has an awareness of the story and the character, but actually I had never actually watched it. I don't want the film to influence me in any way right now because the play is based on the book, so that's want I'm concentrating on. I've read the book - my copy is all highlighted, marked up and referenced. That is what I'm going from. I will be interested to see the difference between the two, the book and the film, afterwards though.'
Richard Greenberg approached the adaptation by choosing not to base it on the film script, but return it to Capote's original story and shifting the period from the 1960s of the film back to the 9140s.
Breakfast at Tiffany's is set in New York in 1943. Fred, a young writer from Louisiana, played in the production by Matt Barber, meets the charming, vivacious and utterly elusive good-time girl Holly.
Everyone falls in love with Holly – including Fred. But Fred is poor, and Holly's other suitors include a playboy millionaire and the future president of Brazil. As war rages on in Europe, Holly begins to fall in love with Fred – just as her past catches up with her.
'The goal of this version is to return to the original setting of the novella, which is the New York of the Second World War, as well as to resume its tone – still stylish and romantic, yes, but rougher-edged and more candid than people generally remember,' Greenberg explained. 'Capote was a great writer and a natural maker of plots and Breakfast at Tiffany's has a drive that makes it very alluring to dramatise.'
'The book is very much set in the 1940s, whereas the film was much more in the 1960s,' says Georgia. 'This is reflecting the 1940s costumes, and the lighting and the bar that she goes to. The set has a blue tinge reflecting the Tiffany's blue. I think that for anyone that is coming along I'd say put the film behind you and open your mind a little bit more to a different story, a darker and deeper story in ways. It is much more emotional definitely but still a great night out at the theatre.'
The character of Holly remains the same however — though many people who only remember the lighter bits of the film may be surprised the character has more depth than they remember.
'I think people forget that the character of Holly is actually a 19-year-old girl in the book,' says Georgia. 'She is really vulnerable, she has travelled around and never really been settled. She has never really loved somebody.
'The Holly that you see is really dolled up and really confident and is acting as kind of an escort really, but under that she is still a young person.
'I think that is really what appealed to me about the role. She is a double-sided character and it is really interesting to play that. If you are able to portray her to the audience as really vulnerable and soft despite how she presents herself to others, that is an interesting and appealing challenge. She is very different than what she makes out to be.'
The production is described as a play with music — rather than a musical — and contains memorable songs from the era as well as original music by Grant Odling, best known for One Man, Two Guvnors.
Fear not though it includes the iconic Moon River, a daunting prospect for Georgia who has also never sung on stage before.
'The music elements that were in the film have been retained and are still in the play, including Moon River which is perhaps the most famous. However there is also an original new song called Dying Day, which is beautiful country song. It not a musical though. The songs are really used to reflect Holly's feelings at that moment in time.
'What nice is that the songs that are in the show are not music theatre type songs. They are not big show tunes or numbers, so it hasn't been as daunting as I might have been, being my first show. It was scary enough though, having to sing in front of my whole family!
'They've never heard me sing. I'll try to avoid knowing what day they first come to see it as I don't think I'll be able to do it.'
What appealed to Georgia was the character's journey.
'You really see the journey of Holly and Fred from start to finish and also the other characters like Doc, Joe Bell and José you really see the relationship between every single person more than perhaps you do than in the film, from what I gather.'
With memorable songs, this stylish production is set to capture the hearts of audiences and sparkle like a diamond in a Tiffany's window.
• Breakfast at Tiffany's is at Norwich Theatre Royal from November 14-19, 7.30pm, 2.30pm, £32.50-£8, 01603 630000. For more information visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk and www.breakfastattiffanys.co.uk