Enthusiastically presented with humor and energy this ‘rough around the edges’ version of Pygmalion is a highly engaging and engrossing production that moves at a spirited pace.
Shaw’s play, about the working class flower girl who is transformed into a lady by the master of elocution that the film My Fair Lady is based on, is competently abridged by Director Daniel Lammin and presented by five actors with the aid of four chairs (possibly 5) and one occasional table. What are preserved are the characters and the skeletal story - that was originally based on the Greek myth of the artist Pygmalion who fell in love with his own marble sculpture that was morphed into life by Aphrodite who was influenced by Pygmalion’s fervent desire.
Amazingly a working week (5days) is the sum total of rehearsal time for this enlightening work about class and sexual politics.
Freya Pragt a recent VCA graduate cuts a fine, feisty beguiling Eliza Doolittle with just a hint of calculation about her. Sebastian Gunner playing her father Doolittle presents a very funny and knowing gent and manages some of the most telling lines.
Susannah Firth handles two beautifully contrasting characters; Mrs. Pearce who seems perpetually in a state of shock at the behavior of those who inhabit the household she keeps and Mrs. Higgins, assured of her position of privilege that she maintains with a relaxed yet controlling air. It needs to be said that the exalted position enjoyed by the aristocracy was so dependent on the strivings and compliance of those below them in the social structure and this is something that Shaw’s writing identifies.
Tom Moylneux’s Colonel Pickering is delightful in his intense commitment to what is presented as the rather adolescent game being played with gusto by himself and Higgins in which Eliza Doolittle is a willing pawn in search of betterment.
Jason Cavanagh’s Henry Higgins is pivotal to the whole and he has the strength and clarity to play the role, though in a way, he is playing the characters subtext of anger and determination. It would be great to see what he could do with a little more time to more comprehensively develop the Higgins’s sophisticated exterior and then to see him expose the more fleshy emotional side as the play progresses.
To quote Shaw: "You have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul." (Act 3) If only it were that simple or perhaps it is that our social constructions dominate the outcome of our lives?
This work bodes well for the rest of 5pounds adventurous repertory season of 5plays in 5weeks with 5actors and 5directors.
November 6-10th. ‘Pygmalion’, directed by Daniel Lammin.
November 13-17th. ‘Sally… A Musical’, Directed by Celeste Cody.
November 20-24th. ‘The Unnamed’ Directed by Danny Delahunty.
Nov 26th – Dec 1st. ‘Falling Petals’ by Ben Ellis, Directed by Rob Reid.
December 3-8th. ‘After Hamlet’, directed by Trent Baker