Writer: George Bernard Shaw
Director: David Grindley
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
100 years ago this month Pygmalion opened in London and had a huge impact on the theatre going audience of the time. 100 years on and the story, characters and issues raised are still as fresh and relevant as they ever were. George Bernard Shaw tells the story of the social experiment engineered by Professor Higgins and his friend Colonel Pickering to turn a common flower seller into a duchess in just six months. Eliza Doolittle, the initially willing subject, is transformed beyond her wildest dreams; but what happens to the person when you take her out of her class and place her in another without the mechanisms of support that others are born with and what happens once the experiment is over?
Alistair McGowan leads a very strong cast. His abrupt, self-absorbed and spoilt portrayal of Professor Higgins was as endearing as it was repellant. His boyish enthusiasm and commitment to his projects was admirable but his lack of understanding and compassion was heartbreaking. His interpretation of the character brought out the comedy within very well and he was paired perfectly with Paul Brightwell as the gentle Colonel Pickering. Together they were a forceful team. Attempting to rein the two confirmed bachelors in was Rula Lenska as Mrs Higgins, the professor’s long suffering mother. Lenska perfectly captured Mrs Higgins exasperation with her son and her growing fondness for Eliza.
Rachel Barry brought a child-like innocence to the rôle of Eliza; her determination to better herself while remaining independent was at times heartbreaking to watch. Special mention must go to Jamie Foreman as Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle, his forceful personality, wit and comic timing were brilliant and he also allowed the darker side of the character’s personality to creep through at times.
The set was simple but effectively created a feel of Edwardian England and the scene changes were slick.
Overall this was a highly entertaining production that explored the issues surrounding the rights of women, the class system and traditional values but allowed the audience to make up their own minds about the characters. The ambiguity of feeling between characters worked very well and added to the power of the ending. A polished and complex piece that should be watched by all.
Runs until 19th April