Rating: 🍷🍷🍷🍷 and one pint of Porter, 🍷
4 (5) out of 5. Glasses of Champagne and one pint of Porter, 🍷 obs!
Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw.
Theatre at The Tabard, Bath Road, Chiswick, London W4
It’s been a couple of years since the copyright on Shaw’s plays ended and most people will have seen ‘My Fair Lady’, but the newly reopened Tabard Theatre have pulled off a coup by bringing the touring company DOT Productions into town with their refreshing reboot of Shaw’s play. Hence the alliteration in this headline. It’s exciting!
Now, to be honest, having worked in professional theatre for years, I’ve never actually heard of this company, but based on this showing, I shall keep an eye out for them. They perform mainly in outdoor venues – and it’s a bit obvious with their vocal projection in a tiny studio theatre like the Tabard, but I’m being picky!
I’ve also been reminded about how good George Bernard Shaw is – was – as a playwright. This production is more true to the original and focuses on Higgins’ story. In his own way he’s a complete monster, yet we can’t finally help but sympathise with him. Shaw was a master at realising – a bit like George Orwell perhaps – that social comment can be far more powerful if it entertains.
The company has had to reduce an 8-hander down to 5 actors, which is not too much of a problem for me, having reduced the 32 characters of Shakespeare’s Henry V down to just one!
And they do it so very well. Director Pete Gallagher hits a nuanced tone – he focuses on the key conflicts and ensures a brisk tempo throughout. And all the actors are outstanding. Francesca Ottley as Eliza Doolittle is mesmerising and completely nails both pre and post ‘treatment’ Eliza. Christopher Walthorne as Henry Higgins is the genius who becomes a little boy and never misses an emotional beat. Andrew Lindfield as Colonel Pickering grows into his kindliness and Cassandra Hodges plays all the dominating women – Mother and housekeeper – with deft, certainty and incredible definition.
Jack Matthews’ performances as an aristocrat and then the cockney dustman Eliza’s Dad stay just the right side of pastiche, even though his stuck-on sideboards are beautifully ridiculous. But it doesn’t matter here. It adds to the fun! The production is beautifully balanced.
Shaw based his play on the classical tale of Pygmalion – a sculptor and King who hated women, but then sculpted a woman and then fell in love with her.
Get to the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick for this Pygmalion. You’ll fall joyfully in love too.