Pygmalion

Fri 6th – Sun 8th December 2013

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at 00:16 on 7th Dec 2013

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Ooook! Productions' latest triumph has come in the form of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The evening was both entertaining and thought-provoking; combining social commentary with comedy throughout. Henry Higgins (Ben Cushion) makes a bet that he can tame Eliza Doolittle (Connie Byrne-Shore) and make her into a lady. The play takes us through the consequences of such a transformation and makes us think about gender identity and class culture.

The opening scenes highlighted the contrast between Eliza’s initial harsh manner and the middle class upbringing of mother and daughter duo Mrs and Clara Eynsford Hill. Leonie Price and Clarissa Lonsdale were spectacular in this paring, and were particularly notable in the interval which was technically the ball scene. Clara’s brother Freddy was played by Harvey Comerford who successfully made the character oddly likeable. Clara’s mother was desperately trying to marry her off to any bachelors in the audience! This scene was inspired and even led to me offering strawberry laces to Pickering (played with fantastic comedic presence by Daniel Pitts).

One of my favourite aspects of the performance was the ‘soapbox sequence’ where we see the changing dynamic between Henry and Eliza, reflecting the original Greek story about a statue coming to life. We see the evolution of her character, from Henry’s project to her becoming a ‘lady’ and then later her new character where notably she is stood and Henry sits on the soapbox. Cushion and Byrne-Shore’s scenes were played with startling emotion, and the movement in the scenes reflected the unsettled nature of their later conversations.

Izzie Englert has made a successful transformation from Shakespeare to her maternal role as Mrs Higgins, supported fantastically by her Parlour Maid Danielle Oliver. Matt Todd as Alfred Doolittle was also impressively cast as he showed how uncomfortable Alfred Doolittle was at his changing identity. Rebecca MacDonald also deserves comment as an excellent Mrs Peace who, right at the beginning, asks the important questions about what will become of Eliza if Henry and Pickering take her on as their project.

The light and sound was very impressive, especially considering it was in a chapel. The production team (and indeed the technical crew) should be very proud of their show and the entertaining way that the issues were addressed. All things considered, it was a very well spent Friday evening, and one which kept me awake and interested after a long week.

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Ishanee Roy

at 01:26 on 7th Dec 2013

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Performing a play like Pygmalion can always be tricky, the story has been made popular and well loved by generations of Hepburn lovers, and though it may be a bit unfair, the audience has some preconceived notions of the characters and their personalities, and possibly some idea of what to expect. This particular production and its cast however have little to worry about. Strong performances give it an air of confidence and it stands up well to the many earlier notions of the story of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.

Connie Byrne- Shore shines in the role of Miss Doolittle, engaging, lively, her delivery if full of conviction and feeling. In addition to her comedic talents in her uncultured avatar, the emotional intensity she brings to the final parts of the play is also magnificent. Also impressive is Ben Cushion as Henry Higgins, who brings exactly the right amount of bluster and arrogance to his part. Daniel Pitts too is endearing as Colonel Pickering, bringing a sort of harmless (but also clueless) sweetness of a dear great uncle to the proceedings. Matt Todd's Alfred Doolittle in particular was impressive, his comic timing and delivery is impeccable, and during the relatively short period of time he occupies the stage he truly is charming to watch. Izzie Englert's Mrs. Higgins is a brilliantly calculated performance that skirts exactly right between the lines of maternal concern and disdain. In this maternal vein, Leonie Price's portrayal of Mrs. Eynsford- Hill too is charming, who is just the right sort of overbearingly kind. Rebecca Macdonald's Mrs. Pearce is also a very endearing performance, and Clarrisa Lonsdale's very comical portrayal of Clara Eynsford- Hill too hits the right mark. Danielle Oliver's bold woman of the night and ditzy parlour maid performances are a great showcase of her versatility and Harvey Comerford as Freddie Eynsford- Hill is awkward and delightfully smitten, and very likeable.

The strong performances aside the play had a lot to commend itself, structuring sequences were well choreographed and timed, and there was a palpable chemistry between Cushion and Byrne- Shore during the transitional scenes. There was some weakness of staging, the excessive movement in the final confrontations between Henry and Eliza was a tad distracting, and so was the overly loud rain the opening scenes, but these are all mistakes that can be rectified in later performances.

Overall the production is very strong and features a very talented cast who are confident and capable. The play approaches the light hearted aspects of Pygmalion with as much vigour and enthusiasm as it confronts the dark issues that underline its events. The final scenes between Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle are masterfully played out, and the play hurtles towards its uncertain conclusion with a lot of confidence and beauty.

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