Ride of the Valkyries wasn’t exactly the music I was expecting to accompany the opening scene of Pygmalion last night, but that was what we were treated to!
Surprisingly, I think it was my first trip to the Garrick Theatre, and although we had GREAT tickets in the stalls, I was rather surprised at how loud the tubes travelling under us to Leciester Square were, and even more so at how muted the sound of the actor’s voices were unless they were facing directly into the audience.
Still, Rupert Everett was rather a treat as the infamous ‘Enry ‘Iggins. Although no Rex Harrison, he cut a rather fine figure on stage, playing an altogether more socially inept, dark and brooding professor than Harrison ever would have done. I have never noticed how deep-set Everett’s eyes are, which became quite distracting as he never appeared to be looking directly at any of his fellow actors!
Peter Eyre was a perfect Colonel Pickering (try saying that 5 times in quick succession), a welcome light and gentlemanly distraction I felt not just for Eliza, but for the audience as well!
Diana Rigg was fabulous and Henry’s mother – both maternally accepting but despairing of her offspring, and the comical ‘undeserving poor’ of Eliza’s dad was given a wonderful performance by Brendan Hooper.
Housekeeper Mrs Pearce was Roberta Taylor (Irene from Eastenders YEARS ago – took me AGES to work out where I’d seen her before) and finally, another ex-Eastender (apparently) played the girl herself, Essex girl Kara Tointon. Having not seen ANY Eastenders episodes for years, I have no idea at all who she was, but she played a pretty good Eliza, although to be honest, she seemed to be playing Audrey Hepburn playing Eliza – if that makes sense.
Following her ‘transformation’, she spoke with that unusual clipped accent that only Hepburn had, but Tointon pulled it off pretty well – however, I wasn’t quite as convinced by her original ‘flower-girl’ accent, which, being an Essex Girl myself originally, I would have thought she should have managed pretty well!
The set managed to be both simple and elegant, but there were points where I was expecting them to break into song, and it was almost disappointing when they didn’t – but of course, this is Pygmalion, NOT My Fair Lady!
That was brought home to us once again at the end, whihc neither me or my friend was expecting, and were both a little surprised and disappointed by – both for it’s abruptness and difference to the musical. That, and the sheer anger of Everett’s Higgins was a bit of a shock – he was literally spitting his dialogue at Eliza through a lot of the play. NOT quite what we expected from ‘Poor Professor Higgins’.
But, still, it was very good, very well-acted and a lovely evening out (although no willies on show, unlike our last outing).