My first thought about this play was that it was going to be the speaking version of My Fair Lady, which based itself on Pygmalion – enjoyable, but light and fluffy. However, George Bernard Shaw’s play is darker, and more of a pointed comment on class and the place of women in society. Like the musical, it has elements of romantic comedy and is incredibly witty, but there is a sinister message reinforced throughout the play – be careful what you wish for, particularly if you happen to be female.
Situated above the Leicester Square Underground, newcomers to the Garrick Theatre may be amused to note that the sound of tube trains can be heard faintly throughout the performance. This may be hazardous for some productions, but for Pygmalion it adds to the atmosphere. Given that the play is set in London, the sound of a train seems wholly plausible and, in certain parts, even enhances the scene nicely!
…varied pronunciation and comic timing…
Kara Tointon, in her West End début as Eliza Doolittle, proves she has well developed acting chops in terms of her varied pronunciation and comic timing as the play evolves. However, the pathos she brings to the character is not always spot on and could be developed more. For example, during the struggles between herself and Professor Henry Higgins, while I was on Eliza’s side, I could have used a little more persuading to situate myself there.
As Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle, Michael Feast is slightly grating in his initial monologues, but he becomes increasingly endearing throughout his performance. I cannot say if this should be attributed to character progression or an off night, but all’s well that ends well, as Feast had the audience in fits of laughter by the final act.
…a believable Henry Higgins…
Rupert Everett creates a believable Henry Higgins and sustains the arc of the character well. Through his violent outbursts the audience comes to realise that Higgins is not who we first thought at all, but then, neither is Eliza.
Garrick Theatre has been playing to a full house and has a history of producing hits. Pygmalion is no exception.
Pygmalion runs at the Garrick Theatre until 3 September.
Tickets from £29.50, group discounts apply.
Image courtesy of the Garrick Theatre