Pygmalion has had many adaptations (see My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, She’s All That), which may suggest it is a tired story. Yet, this performance somehow manages to keep this relatively old play fresh with outstanding acting, comic relief, and relevant commentary.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Originally written by George Bernard Shaw, with this production superbly directed by Richard Jones, Pygmalion follows Eliza Doolittle (Patsy Ferran) as she asks for dialect lessons from Henry Higgins (Bertie Carvel) so she can be treated as a ‘respectable lady’ and open her own flower shop instead of selling them in Covent Garden. Higgins takes this as a challenge, and with the help of his somewhat nicer friend Colonel Pickering (Michael Gould), turns Eliza into a challenge: he will convince high society she is one of them.

Patsy Ferran gives a brilliant performance; she is an absolute delight to watch, worthy of the likes of Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn. Her passion is tangible, her delivery exquisite. Another stand-out actress is Sylvestra Le Touzel as Mrs. Higgins, who acts with grace and civility (except for when she yells “Men!” in exasperation – one of my favourite moments of the play.) She provides the much-needed strong, crucial, female role that would have been detrimental to the play if not included.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Bertie Carvel (brilliantly) delivers Henry Higgins as seedy, creepy, and greedy. From his first entry on stage, I did not like him, and he proves to have no redeeming qualities. Even in his and Eliza’s ending conversation, she gives him multiple chances to repent and apologize for his poor treatment of her, but he does not take them.

Though the play itself is quite dated, it does bring up interesting and relevant conversations about the association of dialect, class, and intelligence, as well as morality and class. The notion of affording morals, or even forced morality once you rise up into middle class, is certainly something that has not been left in the 1930s.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Sometimes the show drags, especially when two characters are talking at each other for a very, very long time. Again, Eliza and Higgin’s final conversation feels as if they are both repeating themselves over and over. Nonetheless, Pygmalion provides a very satisfying ending.

If you’re a fan of some good, old-fashioned theatre, this one is for you!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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