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Pygmalion

April 23rd - May 5th

“You see this creature with her kerbstone English … Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party”. With these words the arrogant and insensitive Professor Henry Higgins, expert in phonetics, strikes a wager with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can transform the speech and manners of the Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Higgins single-mindedly pursues his aim but what will be the true cost of victory?

First performed a century ago, Pygmalion is full of Shaw’s characteristic wit and observation. Perhaps his best-known and most enduring play, it was the inspiration for the film comedy She’s All That and for the musical My Fair Lady.

Malvern Theatres Stage Company and Director Nic Lloyd present their second major production, following their success with A Christmas Carol in 2022.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)

 

Details

Start:
April 23rd
End:
May 5th
Event Categories:
,

Venue

Studio One

Other

Price:
£25.76
£2 Concessions
Under 26s £16.80
Members Discounts Apply
Price includes 12% booking fee
Show Times:
23rd April - 5th May
Tuesday - Saturday Evenings at 7pm
Wednesday & Saturday Matinees 2pm
Sunday 5th May 2pm
(No performances 28th & 29th April)

Event Reviews

  • Steve

    Great production. Over the years I have become so familiar with My Fair Lady that I have tended to disregard the bits of text between the songs! But in seeing Shaw’s play for the first time in decades, I am reminded what a brilliant play it is - witty, sharp and thoroughly entertaining. Much of the social insight remains relevant today, although Henry Higgins’s more politically incorrect quips succeeded in drawing the odd gasp. Director Nic Lloyd did an ingenious job rearranging the action from the proscenium arch to an in-the-round conception. And the cast were outstanding - sterling performances from the regulars, and a special word for Emily Henry, a terrific, vivid Eliza in both her posh and her gutter personae. Try and see it while you can!

    Oh yes, one more thing….
    Watching the interplay between the Higgins and Pickering characters, I was reminded of another famous fictional double act…. Is the company considering casting Toby Burchell and Henry R Pyne as Holmes and Watson? I think we should be told!

  • Peter

    A brilliant performance by a talented young cast, highly entertaining and fun. The 'in the round' stage made it feel very intimate.
    Highly recommended.

  • The view from the stalls

    An effective and simply-staged version of the Shaw classic.

    There is nothing sophisticated about the set for Pygmalion at Studio One - indeed it is simply two large wooden boxes upon which the actors sit and around which they stroll unencumbered as they present the story to an audience which is in very close proximity and on all four sides. Any lack of scenery naturally concentrates the audience's attention on the young actors themselves, which is just how it should be.

    Now well over 100 years old, George Bernard Shaw's comedy of manners, social class and upbringing, as well the importance of language and diction, can both delight and horrify modern-day audiences, especially those who know it only as the sugary and romanticised musical My Fair Lady.

    The two main characters are, of course, the always well-dressed Henry Higgins and scruffy Eliza Doolittle played by Toby Burchell and Emily Henry, who faultlessly and believably spar with each other - each giving as good as they get but inevitably it will be Higgins who wins as he is from a higher social order. The transformation by Emily from course, dirty street-corner flower-seller (but with a good heart) to a persona aimed at being good enough to fool everyone at a ball is remarkable - you would hardly know it was the same actor. Gone is the crude East End language, accent and topics of conversation (Higgins claiming to be able to place any Londoner to within 3 streets of where they were born), all replaced by a refined vocabulary and dress sense. All perfunctory and artificial of course as when the humour of the transformation is replaced with the sad reality of the situation, Eliza Doolittle knows full well that she is just acting a part for Higgins and really has nowhere to go with it.

    The attitude of Higgins towards his young ward is often quite shocking (to a current audience at least), often being aggressive and referring to her as a "squashed cabbage leaf" and whilst physical violence does not occur, it is nonetheless alluded to as when he threatens to "wring her neck". Has Eliza actually changed? In a moment of relapse whilst setting off for home, she says "Walk? Not bloody likely!" (the risky use of the word 'bloody' becoming known as a "Pygmalion"). She also has to explain to her peers what "done her in" means, showing that the new modulated tomes of her voice cannot disguise the words that she speaks.

    In addition to the two main characters, the show also has Jessie-Mae Thomas as both Mrs Eynsford-Hill and Mrs Pearce, Edward Kirby as her son Freddy (who has his heart set on Eliza), Henry R Pyne as Colonel Pickering who, whilst having the same interest in language as Higgins at least goes about it in a rather more respectful way), Abbie Steele as Mrs Higgins (poor Mrs Higgins, one might say!) and Rhys Harris-Clarke as Alfred, the somewhat conniving father of Eliza.

    Together they present a funny and touching account of the separation between the layers of society at the time and that, despite his efforts, Higgins never truly manages to get Eliza to shake off her past and who she really is.

  • Roy

    Staging in the round was perfect. The actors pulled you in with the quality of the performance so that you feel like you are an intimate observer. The quality of the acting and directing matched that of the writing.

  • British Theatre Guide - Colin Davison

    It was the Roman poet Ovid who came up with the idea of Pygmalion, the sculptor who shaped a statue as his ideal of female perfection and promptly fell in love with his creation.

    In his version, the goddess Venus is so impressed that she makes the figure come to life as a reward for his labours. George Bernard Shaw, who believed women should be able to shape their own futures, saw things rather differently, and this bristling production for a highly talented cast of young actors brings his arguments vividly to the fore.

    Most of us will be familiar with the 1964 film My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as his protégé Eliza Doolittle, or the stage musical on which it was based. Its source, the play Pygmalion, for all its underlying humanity, is however made of much sterner stuff than that sentimentalised image of genial joviality.

    This production is performed with almost no stage furniture, but a compensation is to experience theatre-in-the-round—or in the square as in Malvern’s Studio 1—so close to the action that one feels as much an accomplice as a spectator. The face-to-face rows have greater energy, the slippers thrown in anger land with greater force, an uneasy silence at a difficult social gathering creates greater tension—something the actors might have the courage to hang onto for a few moments longer.

    Above all, it’s a chance to observe fine performances, sometimes at no more than one arm’s length.

    Emily Henry is terrific as the scratchy, hand-twisting, lip-chewing, uncertain Eliza Doolittle with the shriek of a wounded cat, who is transformed in the way she talks, and walks, and holds herself as a lady of society. Yet she carries complete conviction as one who has become a lost soul, and turns on Toby Burchell’s Prof. Higgins for treating her as no more than an experimental doll.

    If Burchell were not such a fine actor, he might find an alternative career as a stage hypnotist, such is the power of his portrayal of the arrogant, condescending, insulting, unfeeling professor of phonetics. One senses that Eliza might tear his skin, were it not for the unlikelihood that he would bleed.

    Rhys Harris-Clarke—perhaps born to play comedy with that mop of red pan-scourer hair—revels in the typical Shavian contrariness of two wonderful set-pieces for Eliza’s dustman father Alfred, as a member of the ‘undeserving poor’, gloriously and happily without scruple, then lamenting his elevation through sudden unexpected inheritance to the mores of middle-class morality.

    There is no weak link in the cast, with Jessie-Mae Thomas and Abbie Steele striking exactly the right notes as the sensible, grounded housekeeper Mrs Pearce and as Henry’s mother, the only woman to whom this self-centred narcissist seems beholden. Henry R Pyne is the sympathetic Colonel Pickering, and Edward Kirby an appealing Freddy, with whom almost anyone but the unsentimental Shaw would ensure Eliza got hitched.

    Director Nic Lloyd ensures his vision runs smoothly through the production, and special mention should go to Bridget Lloyd whose costumes so exactly match their characters, Higgins in a tweedy three-piece suit, Mr Doolittle in a wonderful dustman’s get-up. And after Eliza’s triumph in being presented as a lady of quality at an ambassador’s ball, she stands alone, ignored by the chattering professor and Col. Pickering, dressed in a flowing white robe exactly like the statue in Ovid’s original tale. A lovely touch.

  • Scoop

    Fantastic theatre with wonderful and warm staff. An absolute delight of a venue.

    As for the performance; utterly mesmerising work from the whole cast. Emily Henry (as Eliza) and Toby Burchell (as ‘Enry ‘iggins) stood out with a maturity that defied their youth. As a big fan of My Fair Lady, i was enthralled by this performance as it echoed, informed and enhanced the (potentially) more famous version with additional detail and colour.

    It takes skill and gravitas to deliver a performance in the round such as this and I would recommend anyone and everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to see it. Well done to all involved.

  • Poppy

    The story of Pygmalion is known to many through the popularity of the musical it inspired, My Fair Lady, but the play too has much to recommend it. What it might be considered to lack in songs is made up for by its strong characters and comedic brilliance, both of which are fully emphasised in this fine production by Malvern Theatres Stage Company.

    The play is presented in the round with a raised platform in the centre. Nic Lloyd’s impressive direction ensures that this always appears natural and certainly from my vantage point, there was no indication that anything essential was hidden from view. Also very effective was the decision that characters sitting on the platform were often facing the audience rather than each other; this cleverly emphasises the fact the characters are looking metaphorically in different directions, completely unable to see one another’s point of view.

    Emily Henry was an outstanding Eliza, instantly endearing (no matter how hilariously rude she is), impeccably characterised and comedically timed to perfection. As Henry Higgins, Toby Burchell was awkward, blustering, not entirely polite himself but somehow utterly charming at the same time.

    Henry R. Pyne’s gentlemanly Colonel Pickering, Edward Kirby’s sweet Freddy, Jessie-Mae Thomas’ impressive and wonderfully differentiated Mrs Eynsford-Hill and Mrs Pearce, Rhys Harris-Clarke’s wonderfully brash Alfred Doolittle and Abbie Steele’s elegantly terrifying Mrs Higgins complete an incredible cast.

  • Helen

    We saw Pygmalion last night and we were so impressed,it was really well done,the actors were brilliant. I would not have believed that it was possible to put on a play with no scenery and hardly any props but keep the audience absolutely riveted from beginning to end.