Saturday, 26 April 2014


Theatre Royal, Newcastle
I first saw Pygmalion three years ago at the Garrick Theatre, London. The current version sports a brand new cast, with Alistair McGowan in the role of Henry Higgins and Rachel Barry as Eliza Doolittle.

There's no need to provide a summary of the plot here; most readers will be very familiar with the basics (from My Fair Lady, at least). The cast is very strong throughout, with Alistair McGowan particularly good as Henry Higgins. He captures the initial frivolity of the character perfectly, adding emphasis with typical mannerisms such as digging his hands into his pockets and a single finger into his ear.

Fine support is supplied by big-hitters Rula Lenska (Henry's mother - classy and wise) and Jamie Foreman (Eliza's father - an effervescent Cockney performance).

The mood changes in the second half of play, when the rippling effects of Henry's experiment make themselves felt. Who, if anyone, will ultimately benefit from his actions? Does anyone's life really change for the better? The sober pay-off counterpoints the humour of the first half very nicely indeed, lifting a potential farce to the genre of morality play. Indeed, Pygmalion's concluding phase can be rather wordy but I felt this new version navigated that particular aspect more stylishly than the one I saw in 2011. In part, this was due to Alistair McGowan's energetic and charismatic performance.

For further information, including tour dates, head for the official Pygmalion Tour website.

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