Theatre: Pygmalion



Watching Pygmalion at the Old Vic this week it finally dawned on me why it has always felt a little creepy to think that Henry Higgins would end up with Eliza Doolittle. Well it isn't just because (in this production anyway) she is much younger. It is because he is just too camp. Henry Higgins already has a relationship with Colonel Pickering and so Eliza is simply left to pick up the slippers. She never had a chance with those two old poofs... There they were out all night drinking together, gambling together or hanging around in Covent Garden overhearing conversations... Not to mention all those contraptions in the study looking at the mouth... It all makes sense... It's a man's world in the Higgin's household...

This version of Shaw's play goes back to his original version published in 1916. At times it felt like the production was using the original sets with its quaint production values and a taxi car that crawls across the stage (although the looked lovely and weren't intrusive). But in many ways the play seemed as if it was having its first run. It seemed fresh and as if the laughs were being heard for the first time. Well maybe saying "not bloody likely" nowadays is not as scandalous as it was ninety years ago, but it was still darn funny.

Part of the reason this production works so well is that the acting - particularly Tim Piggott-Smith and Michelle Dockery as Higgins and Eliza - was excellent. Special mention also has to go to Barbara Jefford as Mrs Higgins who gave the show a knowing weariness. Well given what we know of her son it all makes sense I suppose. When she chastised her son for hanging out in Covent Garden it just seemed like it was a euphemism for something else... Come to think of it, with all this talk about going out all night and overhearing conversations in Covent Garden I was glad the Whingers and their friends didn't draw parallels to the life of Higgins and a few of us bloggers out there... I thought Shaw's scenario of bachelors living together was a bit disturbing so after the theatre I went home and threw out my cardigans and slippers... I may be more than a few years away from my fifties but you never can be too careful.

And as for the Old Vic, well the Whingers as part of their campaign for better seats at the Old Vic did ask me if I thought the seats were creaking. Either the oil can worked or I didn't notice the noise as I was too busy trying not to pass out from the heat. There is no pleasing some people I suppose but perhaps until that expensive refurbishment happens free ice lollies, suggesting audience members wear shorts and t-shirts and keeping fire doors open before the play and during interval to let the air in might help on those hot summer nights...

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