Pygmalion

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Previewed 12 May 2011, Opened 25 May 2011, Closed on 3 September 2011 at the Garrick Theatre in London

A major revival of George Bernard Shaw's classic play Pygmalion in London starring Rupert Everett, Kara Tointon and Diana Rigg.

Egocentric Professor of Phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet with his friend, the amiable Colonel Pickering, that he can transform the manners and speech of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle and pass her off as a lady in society. George Bernard Shaw's ever-entertaining dramatic tour de force is a provocative assault on the sexual politics, educational limitations and class structure of his day. But peppered with his trademark wit and classic style, it is also beguilingly funny.

This production transfers to London's West End following a summer season at the Chichester Festival Theatre from July to August 2010. Rupert Everett will reprise his role of 'Professor Higgins' (up to 13 August 2011). He is joined by Kara Tointon who makes her West End debut as 'Eliza Dolittle'. Peter Eyre plays 'Colonel Pickering', reprising his role from the Festival Theatre production. They are joined in the West End by Diana Rigg. From 15 August to 3 September 2011, the role of 'Professor Higgins' will be played by Alistair McGowan. The production is directed and designed by Philip Prowse. George Bernard Shaw's other West End plays include Saint Joan, You Never Can Tell and Mrs Warren's Profession.

"Director Philip Prowse's production sounds all Shaw's notes - the Cinderella fairy tale in which a nobody finds Prince Charming, as well as the biting social satire in which a young woman is taught to make the right superficial noises to get on in society but, much more important, discovers her own voice and independence... The devilishly handsome Rupert Everett plays Higgins as a grumpy bully with no sense of humour and little imagination. His closely cropped hair and designer stubble are all wrong and far too trendy, but he's a compelling stage presence." The Mail on Sunday

"Philip Prowse sets the production in Edwardian splendour, a vast Pollocks-toy-theatre proscenium outlined in lights for Covent Garden, which folds without fuss neatly to Higgins's book-lined study. As to the players, Rupert Everett is a hypnotic stage presence, a sullen moulting eagle, whether storming at Eliza or sulking under reproofs from his housekeeper and his mother... I came away thinking how many of Shaw's preoccupations are dated, and yet how strong the human story. Pygmalion loses control of his statue; Beauty thinks twice about the Beast. Sad. You'll see why, if you share my taste for the Beast Higgins." The Times

Pygmalion in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 12 May 2011, opened on 25 May 2011 and closed on 3 September 2011.


Pygmalion with Tim Pigott-Smith and Michelle Dockery 2008

Previewed 7 May 2008, Opened 15 May 2008, Closed 9 August 2008 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of George Bernard Shaw's classic play Pygmalion in London directed by Sir Peter Hall and starring Tim Pigott-Smith and Michelle Dockery.

No play Shaw ever wrote enjoyed the instant success of Pygmalion and introduced two characters of such enduring personality as Professor Henry Higgins and the Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle. Pygmalion formed the basis of the much-loved musical My Fair Lady and has been filmed as both a play and a musical. Leslie Howard, Rex Harrison, Richard Chamberlain and Jonathan Pryce have all played the arrogant Professor of Phonetics who makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can turn a Cockney flower girl into a duchess. Wendy Hiller, Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn are amongst those who have been convincingly transformed.

The cast for Pygmalion in London, which has toured the UK, stars Tim Pigott-Smith as 'Henry Higgins' and Michelle Dockery as 'Eliza Doolittle' with Tony Haygarth as 'Alfred Doolittle', Pamela Miles 'Mrs Eynsford Hill', Una Stubbs as 'Mrs Pearce' and Barbara Jefford. It is directed by Peter Hall with set designs by Simon Higlett, costume designs by Christopher Woods, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Gregory Clarke.

"[In] Peter Hall's handsome, intelligent staging... Michelle Dockery's excellent Eliza can squall like an alley cat, but she brushes up beautifully and is gloriously comic when relaying, in exquisitely refined tones, the awfully inappropriate tale of her aunt's demise: 'What become of her new straw hat that should have come to me? Somebody pinched it; and what I say is, them as pinched it done her in'... A marvellous play gets the production it deserves." The Mail on Sunday

"Pygmalion, Shaw's old social warhorse, remains thoroughly endearing... This particular version is further helped by a pitch-perfect Michelle Dockery in the lead role. She voices that snarly-cockney "Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-ow-oo!" to perfection. Transformed into the elegant Miss Doolittle, she delivers lines such as "But it's my belief they done the old woman in" with a perfect U- Edwardian accent, ensuring that the tea party with the ghastly Eynsford-Hills remains astonishingly fresh and funny... This is Shaw revived with assurance and grace, stoutly old-fashioned and pleasurable, as are Simon Higlett's sets, all oak panelling, leather armchairs and salmon-pink jardinieres." The Sunday Times

"Rex Harrison's turn as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, the 1964 film version of GBS's play, was magnificently monstrous, but it had the effect of throwing the story off balance... In this faithful production, directed by Sir Peter Hall himself, Tim Pigott-Smith's more understated take on Higgins restores the equilibrium... Michelle Dockery's Eliza is, by contrast, a delight. She has the sort of porcelain skin and dark hair and eyes that look ravishing even from up in the gods. She is also a fine actress and gets across very well from the start what Higgins takes so long to accept - that she is a girl with 'feelings'." The Sunday Telegraph

Pygmalion in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 7 May 2008, opened on 15 May 2008 and closed on 9 August 2008.


Pygmalion 1997

Previewed 23 July 1997, Opened 28 July 1997, Closed 4 October 1997 at the Albery Theatre in London

Revival of the classic GB Shaw play. The cast features Roy Marsden as 'Professor Higgins' with Carli Norris as 'Eliza Dolittle', Michael Elphick, Barbara Murray, Moray Watson and Maria Warren. Directed by Ray Cooney Anne Mitchell with designs by Christopher Wood. Emily Lloyd was originally due to play the role of Eliza Dolittle in this production, but she pulled out prior to the first previewes and was replaced by the actress Carli Norris who has only just left RADA. This production was originally directed by Anne Mitchell.

"Since snobbery and social climbing remain two of England's favourite pastimes, Bernard Shaw's Edwardian romance, Pygmalion, should be stamped with a 1997 seal of approval. Its comic cuts and satirical jabs still hit home. Of course, this production has had enough teething troubles to make it one of the biggest pains in the mouth known to modern theatre producers. Two directors and the original Eliza, Emily Lloyd, left during rehearsals. Ray Cooney, the one director who dared stay, has picked up the pieces and made them stick together. Understandably, though, this is a production where cracks of the non-comic sort do show. Carli Norris, who graduated straight from Rada into Miss Lloyd's vacated role, must have left romantics hoping she would achieve the 42nd Street trick and end her first night as the theatre's latest twinkler. Sadly it was not to be. As the cockney flowergirl coached and cajoled by Professor Higgins into speaking and appearing like a high-society young lady, the handsome Miss Norris looks impressively at ease, but never sounds quite at home with the role... The production views social climbing as an amusing game. For Shaw it was a dangerous pursuit." The London Evening Standard

"George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is evergreen. The new West End staging of it at the Noel Coward Theatre, is neither innovative nor perfect, and yet it still leaps off the stage with disarming freshness... A large part of the fun in the new Pygmalion is that Eliza Doolittle is played by an actress straight out of drama school, and that she is surrounded by well-known actors. Eliza is a tricky role but nonetheless enchanting. The beauty of Carli Norris's performance is in the moment-by-moment life she brings to each scene. How her face lights up at some of Professor Higgins's brilliant predictions; how her eye hardens in wariness at Mrs Pearce's sternness; how she thaws to the zephyr good manners of Colonel Pickering... Roy Marsden catches the heartless and antisocial self-assurance of Higgins, but it is hard to believe that so successful an elocution coach would speak with that kind of throaty vocal tone. And his performance lacks spontaneity; he tends for example, to react to people a split second before they have said what he should be reacting to. Moray Watson has all the bachelor charm of Colonel Pickering, and Michael Elphick has the ripe impudence of Doolittle. Marcia Warren is enchanting as the no-nonsense, anxious, watchful Mrs Pearce; nobody does more than she to bring the fine detail of the play to life. As Higgins's mother, Barbara Murray is almost as winning. but her performance is a bit too charming to ring true. The most affecting moment in the production is Mrs Eynsford-Hill's little parting speech about her poverty; the wistful modesty with which Jan Carey utters it is beautiful." The Financial Times

"Before she can go to the ball, Eliza Doolittle must be taught how to talk and hold her head high. But rising star Emily Lloyd has demonstrated that she already knows how to walk. Lloyd was to make her West End debut playing Bernard Shaw's cockney flower-girl going on fine lady. However, due to "artistic differences", she left Bill Kenwright's production and Roy Marsden's Professor just before opening night. Stepping into Lloyd's shoes, having been plucked straight out of drama school, Carli Norris is surely enjoying a rags-to-riches fantasy on a par with Miss Doolittle. Considering she started rehearsing only 15 days ago, she is doing a fine job... That the production has rough edges is hardly surprising when it has passed through the hands of three directors (Ray Cooney coming in for the opening). And the set by replacement designer Christopher Woods confuses the streets of London with Higgins's library. At least Shaw's points, about the middle and lower classes, about ethical shortcomings and economic necessities, come across clearly enough. And, against the odds, the cast seem to be enjoying themselves: Michael Elphick's dustman Doolittle, grinning like a toby jug; Marcia Warren's purselipped Mrs Pearce, suddenly conducting a polka like a crazed automaton; and Moray Watson's blotto Colonel Pickering." The Daily Telegraph

"The latest revival of Pygmalion lost its original leading lady and two directors before finishing up at the Albery with the infamous trouser-dropping, door-slamming Ray Cooney at the directing helm and Carli Norris, who finished at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art last month, as Eliza. As befits a play about dramatic transformations, Ray Cooney's production is elegant, intelligent and beautiful. Carli Norris is superb: her metamorphosis from a foxy, foulmouthed, caterwauling guttersnipe to an imposing society beauty is both credible and moving. As the irascible phonetician, Roy Marsden is spot on, combining boyish bolshiness with abstracted, donnish delight. There is excellent support from Marcia Warren as a prim and firm housekeeper, Moray Watson as the clubbable old darling Colonel Pickering, and Barbara Murray as Higgins's mother, the essence of wisdom, composure and dignity, alone keeping her head when all about her are losing theirs." The Mail on Sunday

Pygmalion 1997 in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 23 July 1997, opened on 28 July 1997 and closed on 4 October 1997