Writer: George Bernard Shaw
Director: David Grindley
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Pygmalion, probably the most well-known work of George Bernard Shaw, is once again revived for audiences in this hundredth anniversary tour. The play tells the story of a linguistics professor who bets that he can turn a Covent Garden flower girl into a society lady and in turn comments on issues of morality, class and genders, which are as poignant today as they were when the play first arrived in London.
The familiar cast is led by Alistair McGowan as the phonetics professor Henry Higgins, who adds an exuberance and joviality to the character whom is often shown as stoic and somewhat wooden. There are however a few moments when, while the rest of the cast are absorbed in their characters and within the stage, McGowan feels as though he is performing towards the audience and is occasionally a little out of character. The comedy of his character though is brought out wonderfully as it is played opposite Paul Brightwell’s Colonel Pickering whose gentle nature and quiet disposition offset the steamroller of Higgins perfectly.
Playing opposite this pair as the Londoner Eliza Doolittle is Rachel Barry, a comparative unknown compared to the other names in this show, whom doesn’t just manage to hold her own but exceeds expectations with a compelling performance that is utterly believable. The two sides of Eliza, the brash flower girl and the poised socialite, are both played with a subtly which captures the audience in both the character’s highest and lowest moments. The supporting cast bring moments of exceptional wit to the performance, particularly from Jamie Foreman as Alfred Doolittle who highlights the socialist undertones of the show in a wonderful satire.
The sets, while ornate and perfectly fitting with the era of the play, feels a little clunky during the changes as they are rather loud and during those few moments between acts somewhat take the audience out of the story.
Overall, this is a slick and well considered version of the now one hundred year old story. There are one or two lines in which the age of the show sits a little uncomfortably on the audience, but overall the show stands the test of time well. It is both an excellent introduction to Shaw for those unfamiliar with the Nobel Prize winner and a compelling new version for existing fans.
Runs Until: 21st June