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Review: Pygmalion, Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Alistair McGowan leads the cast as Henry Higgins in George Bernhard Shaw's classic. Julian Laffin caught the show

Manuel Harlan Alistair McGowan in a scene from Pygmalion
Alistair McGowan in a scene from Pygmalion

Pygmalion is a classic that dictates an audience with high expectations as they sit down to see Eliza Doolittle learn to talk posh.

We were not disappointed. The cast met these without exception, delivering performances effortlessly and displaying good chemistry between all players.

Well known for his countless achievements in the world of comedy - and voices to match - Alistair McGowan was perhaps the most appropriate choice possible to play Henry Higgins, the phonetics expert fascinated by accents.

Eliza Doolittle, played by Rachel Barry, meets him by chance on a wet dreary night when trying to sell flowers to the Eynsford-Hill family, who are waiting at Covent Garden for a taxi.

Mr Higgins claims he could teach anyone to speak like a Duchess, and after running into fellow phonetics enthusiast Colonel Pickering, is visited by Eliza, and so the story unfolds.

The two leads work well together and have some hilarious moments as we watch them try to cope with each other.

Colonel Pickering, played by Paul Bright becomes a mediator between the two, while Jamie Foreman has everyone laughing by playing cheeky chap Eliza’s father, Alfred. Rula Lenska also puts in a terrific turn as the grand Mrs Higgins.

But while the actors undoubtedly fall into their allotted place perfectly, the play itself seemed to end without the audience quite realising it.

There was no tension to relieve after a last act full of lengthy dialogue that did not so bring the story home, but drop it off at the end of the road.

The message of kindness being what makes people good, rather than how they speak was heard loud and clear - and in perfectly delivered English of course - but the parting of Henry and Eliza should have seemed a lot more final than it was.

Nonetheless, Pygmalion left me with a big grin on my face... while vowing to work on my diction.


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