Review: Pygmalion

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

The fresher-exclusive cast and crew of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion are an unstoppable force worthy of your attention. This new crop of actors brought the play to life, showing it to be just as relevant today as it has been for decades. The play exposes the fragility of the social classes through the use of language. Although, this production chose to focus specifically on the subordination of women in society, which Shaw’s play lends itself to. It does this by emphasising the male gaze, in which women can be moulded into the desires and fantasies of men. 

Ben Lewis, playing the lead Mr Higgins, was a marvel throughout. Regardless of his character’s cruelty, Ben sets the pace for the first half of the play using his wit and comic timing. He is totally committed to his aloof, dislikeable character making him, in fact, annoyingly likeable! Mr Higgins and Pickering had a seamless repour on stage. They complimented each other’s morally opposing characters effortlessly – a pure joy to watch. With that in mind, Ben Cawood, playing Pickering, embodied a natural and comical elderly gentleman, wielding his walking stick with great gusto and serving as calm relief to Higgins’ explosive temper.

Ben sets the pace for the first half of the play, using his wit and comic timing

Lucy Mae Bly, playing Eliza Doolittle, presented a flawless duality between the ‘two’ characters she presents. Lucy clearly has a talent for accents and can switch effortlessly between them with fantastic annunciation. This provides a brilliant contrast before and after her transformation and is another character that brought effective comedy into charged societal messages. 

The familiarity and chemistry between the actors showed a very effective rehearsal period which has clearly paid off seen int he play’s high quality

It goes without saying that the directors, Emily Browning, Tia Norris and Lulu Carrier- Pilkington, brought together a seamless, powerful and poignant performance made up of a large ensemble. The familiarity and chemistry between the actors showed a very effective rehearsal period which has clearly paid off seen in the play’s high quality. 

The technical directors, Stuart Wood, Hidayat Malik and Aaron Lo Pui Him really delivered on their task to create naturalistic lighting on stage with some subtle variations

I believe that the directors deliver on their aims to emphasise the themes of feminism and social mobility within the play. They have chosen a naturalistic approach which compliments this. Although a few moments in which I found less successful was the inclusion of spotlights and bursts of red to emphasise the violence in some of the scenes. This broke the naturalism of the play and slightly distracted from the otherwise well-directed sequences on stage. However, the technical directors, Stuart Wood, Hidayat Malik and Aaron Lo Pui Him, really delivered on their task to create naturalistic lighting on stage with some subtle variations. 

Nonetheless, the directors nurture some outstanding performances. Noticeably, Alfred Doolittle, played by Alex Davies.  His charisma stole the show in many moments, especially in the second half when Alex commands the total space on stage – he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Combined with his comic timing, he is a really engaging character.  With a satisfying contrast, Sylvie Normon-Taylor, playing the elderly Mrs Higgins, grabbed the audience’s attention through her composed confidence and moral elegance. Similarly, Maggie Baring, playing Mrs Pearce, also provided a pleasing variation in her portrayal of an eloquent lower-class maid who, in fact, had better morals than that of her socially superior boss, Higgins. 

The chorus provided excellent and necessary support, especially in the play’s opening – manufacturing the illusion of a busy, chaotic Covent Garden, creating excitement for the rest of the play

I very much enjoyed and Georgia Newton as a believable mother and daughter, impressively representing the deliberately obnoxious and shallow middle class. Alongside these ladies, Freddy, played by Thomas Corocran, brought a brilliant energy whenever he bounded on stage. Finally, the chorus provided excellent and necessary support, especially in the play’s opening– manufacturing the illusion of a busy, chaotic Covent Garden, creating excitement for the rest of the play. 

The Producers and Stage managers must be mentioned for their sourcing of the stage props and building a beautiful, natural yet adaptable set. This paired with the clever directorial decisions of slight changes within the set, for example, the swapping of hand-painted pictures on the wall, all helped create the three different settings on the sometimes-awkward Assembly Rooms stage.Ultimately, every aspect of this production is stunning. Book your tickets quickly

Image credit: DST Fresher’s Play

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