Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw is rather overshadowed by its musical offspring, ‘My Fair Lady,’ that uses the same endearing story with the addition of toe tapping tunes. Nonetheless this classic ‘rags to riches’ tale of young Eliza Doolittle still delights audiences and the Garrick Theatre was full to the brim when I went along last week.
Philip Prowse’s production started life at the Chichester Festival Theatre last year, before transferring to London in May. I had heard negative rumours about the show, so prepared myself for disappointment. As a whole the play feels oddly disjointed, from a lengthy opening speech from Eliza as the uncouth flower seller to a seemingly instant transformation to an eloquent upright lady. I missed the tiresome lessons reciting ‘the rain in Spain’ and feel the absence of this struggle leaves the narrative rather inadequate.
The familiar role of Eliza is bravely taken on by ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ star Kara Tointon, who uses her movement training to her advantage, capturing the crumpled street-perching girl and then the tall reformed woman both perfectly. She immediately reminded me of Audrey Hepburn, she seems to be channelling the famous actress’s portrayal, and also has a similar doll like beauty.
I was less impressed with Rupert Everett, who stumbles precariously on his lines throughout the evening. I have always liked Everett but feel he doesn’t bring enough of his unique flair to the character - Henry Higgins is a man who oozes charisma and unfortunately Everett just doesn’t deliver. There is some sterling work from the smaller roles though, a composed Diana Rigg presents a wonderful Mrs Higgins and Michael Feast is hilariously rowdy as Alfred Doolittle.
There are some poignant moments in this production of Pygmalion thanks to Tointon’s thoughtful depiction, but on the whole I feel it lacks depth and at times even verges on bland, most of all I missed the songs.
Continues until 3 September, 2011. Book here.