Friday, May 6, 2011

Pygmalion @ The Abbey

Dave and I were at Pygmalion in The Abbey last night.  The short review is: it's awesome and you must see it right now.

The Longer Version
Pygmalion was written by one of our most esteemed playwrights, George Bernard Shaw, and is set in pre-WWI London.  I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that this is the play that spawned My Fair Lady, the (awful?) Lerner & Loewe musical made ridiculously famous by the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison movie in the 60s, though her singing was dubbed.  There are some fairly big differences between the play and the musical but in places, the dialogue is almost identical.  A final random fact about MFL before I get on to its superior parent is that a young Julie Andrews played Eliza Doolittle in the original production but lost out to Hepburn in the movie version because she had no film experience at the time.

So the premise is a professor of English dialects & phonetics, Henry Higgins, undertakes to turn a Cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, into a lady, by improving her speech, manners, dress, etc.  It's a classic ugly duckling story.  The Abbey's set is wonderful.  The opening scene with just 2 columns gives an impressive air of space and height.  The main set of Higgins' study is perfect - books and boxes with a piano and a desk.  Paul O'Mahony is the set designer, and reading his bio, I've loved several of his sets in the past.  Risteárd Cooper plays Higgins and Charlie Murphy plays Eliza, ably supported by Nick Dunning as Col. Pickering and the always fantastic Eleanor Methven as Mrs Higgins.  The whole cast is very strong but I have to particularly applaud the two leads.  The intensity of the final scene was riveting.  Murphy's accent change from Cockney to upper class toff is brilliant, even more so since I presume she is Irish.  The play is funnier than I expect though not an outright comedy.  I can see that some of the lines suggested the song titles in the musical version.

The costumes in this play are almost a character in their own right.  They were especially created by world-renowned designer, Peter O'Brien.  Admittedly, the Edwardian setting automatically means the costumes will be great but these are a step above.  In particular, I loved Eliza's first outfit for her lessons and her ball gown at the end, which trailed on the floor with an audible beaded heaviness when she walked.

So yeah, I have nothing bad to say about this play.  It's running until 11th June so you've plenty of time to GO SEE IT!


  1. Great review. Can't wait to see it

  2. This is a bit of a "me too" comment, but anyway: I agree. It's a good performance and worth seeing.