ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
It may be that Philip Prowse is conveying some of Shaw's own misogyny in the arrogant way in which Eliza (Kara Tointon) is treated by the academic bachelor. Higgins has not thought through what the long term effect will be on the street flower girl given a perfect accent, society manners and a brief interlude of the acceptance that comes with wealth and position although he alludes to her being able to get a job in a shop. His companion Colonel Pickering (Peter Eyre) at least is a gentleman in his treatment of Eliza. As Eliza says, "I sold flowers; I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me, I'm not fit to sell anything else."
The opening scene of this production set in Covent Garden with the Eynsford-Hills emerging from the Opera House. Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" is a tongue in cheek allusion to women taking over the world with the incipient Suffragette moment .
It is hard to like Rupert Everett's glowering Higgins but it does serve to underline the darker aspects of this comedy. Dark eye make up and an unsmiling countenance make him look more Dracula-like than handsome. Kara Tointon scrubs up very well in the transition from grubby street seller to lady in a suitably uncharismatic but realistic performance. I liked Roberta Taylor's Mrs Pearce, the housekeeper who is the only female influence on Higgins, apart from his lovely mother played by Diana Rigg, with great comic assurance in Eliza's test venture into polite society. Mickey Feast gives us a slice of Cockney life as Alfred Doolittle, the plot twist of the change in his fortune as the recipient of morality reform funding as unlikely as winning the lottery today. Peter Eyre's confident presence has Pickering's paternalism and solidity.
Prowse's set with its screen borders in red and gilt as if inspired by Covent Garden's proximity to Chinatown has panels of marbled paint effect and curiously light bulb surrounds. Maybe this is an allusion to the meta theatrical? Higgins' study is awash with tall bookcases with an old fashioned desk and chairs and contrasts nicely with his mother's more elegant drawing room. The ball scene is again cut as it often is so we only see Eliza after she has won the bet for Higgins.
Allowing for the saturnine Higgins, which has the effect of making you think about the ethics, the real delight of Shaw's play is ever present in this well spoken production. Shaw's wonderful wit making the lines as fresh as the day they were written and the verbal comedy as captivating as ever.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.