Pygmalion reviews

Unsentimental production of Shaw’s Pygmalion

“A strong production that is definitely worth seeing.”

by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 13/06/19

Pygmalion, currently running at Tower Theatre’s home in Stoke Newington, is George Bernard Shaw’s most well-known play, in part due to the later musical adaptation “My Fair Lady”. However, director Emilia Teglia’s production makes it clear that the original was very different. After getting into a confrontation with Eliza Doolittle (Celia Learmonth) outside the theatre, linguist Professor Henry Higgins (Dickon Farmar) is shocked to have her visit him, demanding lessons that will make her fit to sell flowers in a shop, rather than on the corner of Tottenham Court Road. Urged on by his colleague Colonel Pickering (Simon Taylor), he sets out to prove that he can pass her off as a high-born lady in polite society.

Like many of Shaw’s play, this deal with the themes of poverty and the hypocrisy of middle class values. However, more than any of his other works, it embraces the dark side of human nature, from the father (Kevin Furness) who effectively sells his daughter for £5, to Higgins’ own behaviour. Dickon Farmar plays the Professor as an antihero, part bully, part overgrown child. Indeed, his relationship with his mother (Rosanna Preston) suggests that he is still desperately looking for her approval. Celia Learmonth is also superb as Eliza, moving from feral, to submissive, before ending the play firmly in control.

A strong production that is definitely worth seeing. Directed by Emilia Teglia and produced by Tower Theatre. Cast also includes Christopher O’Dea, Heather Dalton, Joanna Coulton Sarah Wenban and Peter Novis.

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Review of Pygmalion LondonTheatre1


Pygmalion Cast Tower Theatre
Pygmalion – Tower Theatre

A warm welcome awaits you at this wonderful and comfortable theatre, upstairs in the octagonal tower, home of the Tower Theatre Company.

Emilia Teglia’s fabulous production of Shaw’s most popular play sticks closely to the original. The Edwardian humour is perfectly reflected, it retains all the play’s social themes and provides us with a very entertaining evening.

Dickon Farmar is superb as a condescending, capricious and aloof Professor Higgins who has ‘never met a man of good character’ and who wants to keep Eliza’s hat as a curiosity. Higgins is the fulcrum of the play and barely has time to draw breath. The incompatible relationship between Higgins and flower girl Eliza comes across well. But the star is Celia Learmonth; her Eliza Doolittle is magnificent.

Eliza’s changing mannerisms and phonetics are played equally well and the change in her personality is absolutely convincing. Simon Taylor as Colonel Pickering provides an effective foil between the two, and completes a seamless performance between the three characters.

Kevin Furness saves his best for last. The character of Alfred Doolittle gets a lot of the best gags – all excellently provided by Furness. The accent is spot on and, now ’delivered into middle-class morality’ he lights up the play’s final act.

The Eynsford Hills are a family devoted to social climbing. The hapless Freddy (Christopher O’Dea) is excellent. Heather Dalton and Joanna Coulton as Mrs and Clara Eynsford Hill work well together and it’s a shame that Joanna Coulton doesn’t have a larger part; maybe next time.

This production keeps all the play’s themes – social climbing, class, snobbery, grammar and manners – to the fore, it is professionally put together, the scene changes work well and it is a very funny and well-acted play. I was slightly baffled by a brief surreal musical interlude accompanied by flashing lights in the first half, but aside from that, it was a grand night out. You should go!

4 stars

Review by Mike Stephenson

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