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by George Bernard Shaw

27 October – 5 November 2022

The original play behind the musical My Fair Lady. Pygmalion both delighted and scandalised its first audiences in 1914. A brilliantly witty reworking of the classical tale of the sculptor Pygmalion, who falls in love with his perfect female statue, it is also a barbed attack on the British class system and a statement of Shaw’s feminist views. In Shaw’s hands, the phoneticist Henry Higgins is the Pygmalion figure who believes he can transform Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl, into a duchess at ease in polite society. The one thing he overlooks is that his ‘creation’ has a mind of her own.

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Photos: Jan Kool


Eliza Doolittle  Lucinda Banton
Professor Henry Higgins  Michael Cooke
Colonel Pickering Jeremy Taylor
Alfred Doolittle Chester Stern
Mrs Pearce Susie Timms
Mrs Higgins   Nikki Packham
Mrs Eynsford-Hill   Catherine Elliott
Clara Eynsford-Hill   Lola Rush-Miller
Freddy Enysford-Hill   Thomas Puttock
Parlourmaid   Denise Scales
Director Suzi Whittle

Advertiser Review

December 2022

Theo Spring

It’s rather odd, with the huge success of My Fair Lady, to sit through its birth mother – Pygmalion – and not hear a single song. What is underlined by the fame of the well-known musical is the number of words which were lifted, wholesale, into the songs, from George Bernard Shaw’s original play. Much of Higgins’ solo numbers in the musical are simply GBS, set to music.

Ordinarily a lengthy play, time was reduced by use of the Miller Centre’s enviable revolve and, very cleverly, to have recorded the phonograph ‘cup of tea’ scene and played it, with the stage in semi-darkness, during a scene change. Theatrically, this lost nothing but in fact enhanced the words, as audience concentration was only aural and not visual. 

The success of any Pygmalion production rests on the shoulders of its main characters – Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Michael Cooke played Henry in the vein of an irascible and spoilt boy, who considered his toys to include his experiment with Eliza’s transformation from flower girl to lady. Impatient, yet with glimpses of affection, Michael strode admirably through the show as its lynchpin. 

To Lucinda Banton fell the difficult task of transforming Eliza’s speech from cockney to cut-glass and here, early on, some of her lines were tricky to hear owing to being a little over-cockneyfied, but her delightful scene at Mrs Higgins’ At Home was a triumph, both as written by GBS and delivered by Lucinda.  

Instigating and assisting in the bet to transform Eliza, Jeremy Taylor’s Colonel Pickering was certainly genteel but as well as missing an avuncular approach to Eliza, seemed to miss a showing of enthusiasm for the project.  

This production was enriched by actors cast in the smaller roles. Chester Stern’s Alfred Doolittle showed a man brought from the happy state of always out of funds to the unwelcome one of unexpected riches. An excellent accent and characterisation.

Higgins’ housekeeper, Mrs Pearce is both deferential yet firm with Susie Timms adding caution into Higgins’ experiment. 

Still able to control her son to a degree, Nikki Packham brought elegance and patience to Mrs Higgins, whose At Home is used for Eliza’s first experiment as ‘a lady’.

The Eynsford-Hill family of mother, daughter and son serve two purposes within the play. The first enables Eliza to establish her credentials as a flower seller and the second to attend that At Home and be in turns shocked, impressed and enamoured of Eliza with Catherine Elliott as Mrs Eynsford-Hill revealing her inability to keep up with her daughter’s modern thinking, Lola Rush-Miller as daughter Clara – showing much delight with the new small talk from Eliza and Thomas Puttock as son Freddie who falls for Eliza but needed to make this a little more obvious in this scene. 

Bystanders Denise Scales and Chris Hearn warmed themselves on hot chestnut seller Keith Orton’s realistic hot chestnut stand under the church portico in Covent Garden and Denise doubled up as Mrs Higgins’ polite parlour maid.

Higgins’ study, on one side of the Revolve, is book-lined, comfortable and stylish. It is elegantly furnished but the two chairs downstage left and right, although of the period, were too low to enable the actors to sit and rise with ease. 

Jenny Kingman wove her magic on the set design, and set construction and painting was in the hands of the large team of often unsung heroes. 

Costumes were most appropriate to the era with beautiful gowns, hats and suits collated by Denise Scales and Nigel Kemp, with the yellow ensemble for Eliza outstanding for that, once more, At Home!

Combining her considerable directorial ability, together with a stellar cast, director  Suzi Whittle brought an evening of pleasant escape into another, bygone world and sent us home with a smile.