Pygmalion, Theatre Review. Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Cast: Alex Beckett, Ian Burfield, Gavi Singh Chera, Flaminia Cinque, Natalie Gavin, Racheal Ofori, Liza Sadovy, Raphael Sowole.

Refreshing, radical and engaging….whilst the sweet saccharine taste of My Fair Lady sits in the theatrical playground like some street urchin outside of sweet shop, eyes aglow at the treats inside, deep in the interior of George Bernard Shaw sits the happiness of a man content at the thought of his tremendous play Pygmalion getting the sincerity of the performance that it fully and rightfully deserves.

This is a production so far removed from the cinematic classic as it is possible to get, revolutionary, a deep seated militant offering which has far more of the fear that is strewn in the text than the glamour afforded Audrey Hepburn. Headlong Theatre take all the essential wit and wisdom offered by Mr. Shaw and give it to a cast who run so far with it that they require passports to get back to where they started. It is in this wit, the absolute cruelty that is evident in the play which gives it its refreshing and deep seated ideology back; it is the cruelty in which Bernard Shaw made evident as both to the class system and the manners of speech which the era of Victorian England idealised.

The fear of losing one’s words, by having your identity taken from you as you are supplanted into another world, these are always great apprehensions as you try to move up the social scale. The dominant stare of the person silently judging you by your accent, by your choice of words or your idioms, these are nothing to those who believe you have betrayed your roots when they next hear your voice; it is this that makes Eliza Doolittle such a paragon of the bitterness and snobbery felt throughout this play.

In Alex Beckett and Natalie Gavin, there can have been no better Henry Higgins and Eliza Dootlittle, this is the performance of a lifetime for both actors, swerving between film and stage with desire and accountability to the parts, they grace the stage as if it was a kingdom, one dominated by words of stealth and terror, of wit and intellect. In this revolution there is no winner, no loser, only the English language held in absolute esteem and one in which the inventive directing of Sam Pritchard is sheer class.

Pygmalion is the revolution, of sight and sound in just under two hours and one that truly gets under the skin of George Bernard Shaw’s realism which still resonates fully over a hundred years on.

Ian D. Hall