Having grown up watching the musical My Fair Lady, I was so excited to see the play that influenced an all time favourite of mine. Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw, explores the British class system in the 1920’s. A professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins places a bet with Colonel Pickering, a linguist of Indian dialects, that he could transform cockney flowergirl Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess by teaching her respectable speech and manners.
The cast consists of Rupert Everett playing Henry Higgins, Kara Tointon playing Eliza Doolittle, Diana Rigg playing Mrs Higgins, Brendan Hooper playing Alfred Doolittle, Peter Eyre playing Colonel Pickering and Roberta Taylor playing Mrs Pearce.
Shaw uses the English language to emphasis the class difference between the characters, with Eliza having a wonderful cockney accent in contrast to Higgins crafted well-spoken accent. As an audience you have to listen carefully to Eliza’s speech, being so thick most of the words are unrecognisable, which only adds to her common status within society. In the beginning scenes particularly, Kara delivers many of her lines with her back to us (something that I found happening with the other character throughout the play) which resulted in lines being lost and not understood as facial/physical expression where hidden.
A scene that received a roar of laughter from the audience, including myself, was when we first see Eliza ‘transformed’. Higgins introduces her to his mother and the Eynesford-Hills. Eliza puts into practice her new skills she has learnt over the last few months and tries to pass as a lady. These characteristics are played beautifully by Kara who shows that Eliza’s is trying maybe a bit too hard to impress, which creates a very amusing imitate of the walk and talk of the aristocracy.
Marty Cruickshank played Mrs Eynesford-Hill, while Helen Millar played daughter Clare Eynesford-Hill and Peter Sandys-Clarke played son Freddy Eynesford-Hill.
Rupert plays Henry Higgins superbly with Higgins unique and eccentric characteristics, making sure his rudeness and bluntness is a trait the audience fall in love with and not dislike. Whereas, Peter Eyre plays Colonel Pickering a very kind gentleman that shows respect to Eliza even when she’s a common flower girl.
Direct and designed by Philip Prowse, this is a beautiful revival of a classic comedy that shouldn’t be missed.
25th May 2011