IT IS hard to explain why, nearly 60 years on, Holly Golightly still elicits such fascination.

A social butterfly, she is embroiled in a life of oversized sunglasses, profitable trips to the powder room, and gobbles up gullible businessmen for supper. But behind the thin veneer of glamour and magnetism she is for all intents and purposes lost, delusional, insecure and somehow equally utterly naïve and cunning.

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s Truman Capote dreamed up the ultimate tragic character, fragile, determined to overcome poverty and feel safe at last but far too volatile and kind for her own good.

This is something the film adaption always missed, turning an elusive woman into a rom-com heroine with the hackneyed happy ending. Thankfully Emily Atack and Olivier Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg steer clear of references to the movie, Audrey Hepburn-esque mannerisms, or distinctive do, (except for a stunning rendition of Moon River by Atack) and remain true to Capote’s original design in this new theatre adaptation.

Set in New York City in 1943, the plot centres around Fred (Holly’s pet name for him due to his uncanny resemblance to her brother Fred), a penniless writer from Louisiana, who becomes infatuated with his elusive neighbour Holly Golightly, a vivacious good-time girl, whom every woman wants to be and every man wants to be with.

Of course there is little room in her life for a strapped aspiring author, what with the coterie of suitors pursuing her including a playboy millionaire and the future president of Brazil. But as war rages on in Europe, Holly begins to fall for Fred – just as her past catches up with her.

Atack’s charm is infectious. Holly’s fits of glumness, utter lack of restraint or self-control are flawlessly and intensely brought to life by the actress. At times toxic and deceitful, others kind and motherly, she evades labels and definition, never reducing Holly to a bland cliché.

Her counterpart Fred, played by Downton Abbey’s Matt Barber, delivers an equally engaging performance.

Astute sets – transitioning seamlessly from Holly’s stylish yet modest apartment to Fred’s grubby garret – complete with the archetypal New York steel fire escape scaling up their Manhattan building truly add character and a wistful touch to the play.

This is an alluring production, as evocative, multi-layered and shattering as Capote intended. Breakfast at Tiffany’s runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday.