Cheryl Barrett | 12 Jul 2014 08:23am
PYGMALION at the Apollo Theatre, Newport, Isle Of Wight
George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Pygmalion is a classic. Based on the complex business of human relationships in a social world this sharp, linguistic satire from 1914 is one of Shaw’s most liked plays. Now in its centenary year it has lost none of its appeal and is proving popular amongst audiences at the Apollo Theatre.
Director Fiona Gwinnett has done a sterling job with this production and assembled a strong cast. The humour was well developed and the pace of the piece maintained throughout.
Michael Arnell’s set design was extremely good both in design and décor and was enhanced by a well-executed lighting plan by Dan Burns. The use of film projection onto the curtains was used to good effect to allow for scene changes and showing Eliza’s voice training and other images from the play. Before the curtain opened film coverage of a busy London street in Edwardian times was projected onto the curtains which set the scene perfectly, giving the audience a clear sense of time and place.
Curtain up and we are at Covent Garden as Eliza Dolittle sells flowers. Two gentlemen meet by chance – Professor Higgins is a scientist of phonetics, and Colonel Pickering is a linguist of Indian dialects. Higgins bets Pickering that with his knowledge of phonetics he can convince London society that, in a matter of months, he will be able to transform the cockney speaking Covent Garden flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, into a woman as poised and well-spoken as a duchess. When Eliza appears at his house on Wimpole Street to ask for speech lessons, offering to pay a shilling, so that she can speak properly enough to work in a flower shop, Higgins makes merciless fun of her. Pickering goads him on by agreeing to cover the costs of the experiment if Higgins can pass Eliza off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party – the challenge is taken…
Zoë Divers, taking the leading role as Eliza Doolittle gave a confident performance. She executed Eliza’s broad working class accent, complete with angry ‘squawks’, very well in the first half of the play, and her transformation from a sassy Cockney flower girl to ‘Duchess’ seemed effortless.
Joe Plumb was perfectly cast as the rather eccentric Henry Higgins and commanded the stage throughout. Plumb portrayed Higgins impatience and bullying manner superbly, also showing us that Higgins was an unconventional but harmless man at heart. Martie Cain gave a lovely portrayal as Mrs Higgins, who sees the Eliza Doolittle experiment as idiocy, and Henry and Pickering as senseless children. I loved the scenes where she gently chides her scowling son and he sulks in a chair like a naughty and belligerent schoolboy.
Paul Gwinnett gave a credible performance as Higgin’s trusty sidekick Colonel Pickering, showing a considerate and gentlemanly manner towards Eliza. I enjoyed his repartee with Higgins as they set about transforming Eliza into a lady. Equally impressive was Sue Clark as Higgins housekeeper Mrs Pearce.
John Hammond was superb as Albert Dolittle, Eliza’s father, an elderly but vigorous dustman who has had at least six wives and who “seems equally free from fear and conscience”. The audience responded well to his rhetoric and comedy.
Glenys Lloyd Williams, a lovely performance as Mrs Eynsford Hill, looked suitably shocked at Higgin’s lack of social graces when she visited his mother. Isaac Rice and Amelia Havard did well as her children Freddy and Clara Eynsford Hill, (Robbie Gwinnett plays the role of Freddy Eynsford Hill in week two of the production). Other supporting cast, Amy Burns, George King and Helen Clinton-Pacey portrayed their roles well.
The wardrobe team did a wonderful job with the Edwardian costumes which certainly added to the overall visual effect of the production.
This was a delightful production, well-acted and directed and proving that George Bernard Shaw’s play has lost none of its sparkling wit. Congratulations to all involved.
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- : 04/07/2014