Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw.Sydney Theatre Company, directed by Marion Potts. Canberra Theatre Centre April 22 – 26, 1997.
A friend asked me, expectantly under the exit sign, "Will you write a good review?"
Yes, Yes, Yes.
I wish I had Shaw's wit and wonderful words. All I can report is that this production is "bloody" good. If you think that it's not worth going because My Fair Lady would have to have more glitter, then just remember that "all that glisters is not gold". The original play is pure gold, and Marion Potts has polished it with a sure hand.
The music before the play began was a tad too loud on opening night. It didn't need to be to make the point that this is a comedy of issues which are as relevant in Australia today as in England in 1913 - however egalitarian we think we are.
The beauty of the production is that every actor has control of Shaw's language - and with the great Australian tradition of physical theatre, they create warm humour, a theatre full of laughter in a moment of silence, and the silence of recognition in a moment of chilling laughter on the stage. Bernard Shaw has been accused often enough for writing too many words. Here at last is a director who has understood the words as vehicles for her actors. And they drive the action along with terrific energy.
The audience even applauded a scene change, as well as many scenes. Jonathan Hardy, (Alfred Doolittle as a Gough Whitlam look alike), led the way with his first "middle class morality" speech. For Eliza we silently applauded the skill with which Anita Hegh led us from broad slapstick in the "gutter", through frustration with little boy Higgins (Luciano Martucci), to her final test of her "creator" and recognition that her strength is in her independence.
Pygmalion's mythical sculptor, Galatea, created a real woman who, ironically, did not love him as he hoped. Higgins, indeed all of us who are parents, partners, teachers or mentors, are in the same plight. La commedia e finita - or at least it will on Saturday: don't miss it.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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