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Pygmalion - Garrick Theatre

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan


110 years on from its first performances, Garrick Theatre's current production is Pygmalion. Whilst perhaps more well-known in the musical form of My Fair Lady, the plot is very much the same here, looking at class and social mobility through the lens of language.

The performances are the highlight of this version of this production. Peter Clark brings a wonderfully dislikeable Henry Higgins, with some lovely variance across the show. Catherine Leeson is every moment the Eliza we want with well-crafted accent work and stage presence. All three of the Eynsford-Hills are also played well, with nicely true-feeling relationships between all three. For some of the other characters, the accents tended to wander a touch, especially in a show that is so dedicated to language and the power of phonetics.

It's always a challenge when mounting a show that is so well known. This production does a good job of fulfilling the audience's expectations, while also feeling like its own version. There are some moments where some of the blocking feels a little arbitrary and stilted, but this is more down to the stage size making some of the larger movements feel abrupt rather than sweeping. The first half suffers the most for this, as we want to feel the movement of both Eliza and Alfred in full flight as their lower-class selves. Additionally, some characters end up upstaging themselves, making it harder for them to be understood by the older members of the audience.

The set is well crafted, using the revolve well to quickly switch us between Covent Garden, Wimpole Street and Mrs Higgins's abode. The scene changes are as swift as you could ask, and where the sets are simple, the use of clever lighting to change both wall colours and to add atmosphere in the initial scene works wonderfully. The costumes for this production set the tone well, especially for the women. It would have been nice to see similar care and details in the men's costumes, but the dresses, especially those for Mrs Higgin's 'at home' day are a triumph.

All in all, a solid take on a classic piece of theatre. With new faces and old hands sharing the stage, it's well worth the trip out to Guildford.

Catherine Leeson (Eliza Doolittle) and Peter Clark (Henry Higgins). Image provided by Garrick Theatre.

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously been in a production of Pygmalion with the Midnite Youth Theatre Company. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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