Pygmalion (2): 22nd-24th January 2009

Bernard Shaw’s tale of a girl taken from the gutter and transformed, so she can be passed off as a princess.

I was approached by TADS to take on the role of Alfred Doolittle in the production of ‘Pygmalion’. I must admit that I was unsure about taking on such a large role at short notice however, with a lot of help and extra patient coaching, I really enjoyed the part. The support from the other cast and crew was fantastic and made it a happy and rewarding experience.

Paul Smart as Alfred Doolittle

My first main role! When I found out I got the part of Eliza Doolittle I doubted myself and thought, “What am I doing?!” But week by week, step by step, and with the help of the wonderful members I felt confident enough to perform, and I’m so pleased I did.  The cast and crew were so much fun, I made some great friends for life and we didn’t want it to end.  From the costumes, the set, and the lightening this was a great experience which I will not forget.

Debbie Wiggins as Eliza Doolittle

GDA Adjudication:
We were given a warm welcome at the lovely Rose theatre with a programme and refreshments in the interval.

The play opened with the Covent Garden scene, and using drapes to show stone pillars created the impression. This was certainly an interesting idea. The location did seem a little squeaky clean rather than the grubby and common area that is associated with Eliza and her lifestyle. Perhaps the plinths at the base of the pillars could have been a darker stone effect. It almost bordered on to Classical Greek setting. It is important to open a play with impact to grab the audience and this was lacking in this play. This perhaps could have been executed with sound effects to create the atmosphere of the location as the house lights were dimmed and more activity on stage with extras, hailing taxis rushing out of the rain etc creating more excitement. The effect of the house to reveal Higgins’ study was inventive but as it served both the study and Mrs Higgins’ home this was somewhat confusing. Perhaps fading out the light at the rear and focusing on the front of the acting space would have helped to separate the locations.

The lighting effects with changes between night and day, interior and exterior were well handled. There were times though when the light was rather patchy over the downstage left and right, in particular at the beginning of the first scene. This was when Eliza and the two ladies were stationed down stage right. The hats also prevented their faces being seen. The actor’s costumes were effective but Eliza’s could have made a stronger statement about her social position. The dress that Mrs Higgins wore was somewhat ordinary. This again could have shown her status in society. I think Freddy looked a little nondescript and a smarter outfit would have been an improvement. Again consider the social position of the characters.
I was rather surprised to see Mrs Higgins butler in a black tee shirt and trousers and with a ponytail. In 1914 ???? This was the same actor who had earlier brought on a chair. Surely one of the more mature actors who appeared in the ballroom scene would have been more suitable. It would have been useful for some music or indeed the accordion player to link the scene changes to avoid dead space.

There was a reasonable standard of performance skills but occasional problems with clarity from some characters. This was evident in the opening scene, and at other times when the rhythms and emphasis and meaning of speeches were lost. Also cues were not always sharp and this tended to slow the action.


Professor Higgins
Shaw describes this character as being about forty to fifty in age seeming to be a confirmed bachelor. His manner varies from genial bullying to stormy petulance. This actor was perhaps rather young for this part but did display emotion, clumsiness and a slightly bullying nature which came over very well. The performance at times was slightly overdone in terms of movement; a little less would have been more. At times there was a tendency to gabble at moments of raised emotion. Try and use more
stillness it can be very powerful.

Eliza Doolittle
This actress gave a very strong performance and this was particularly evident after her transformation. The attempt at the cockney accent was excellent but at times there was a lack of clarity. The attempted Standard English in the scene in Mrs Higgins house was shown with comic effect and also her reactions to Higgins comments later in the play. Body language and gestures were appropriate to her actions and reactions. All in all this was a solid performance showing experience and confidence in the work. Well done.

Colonel Pickering.
This character is described as courteous and generous and this actor certainly captured those qualities. He displayed a solid and reliable person and this was displayed in effective posture and mode of speech. His verbal delivery was firm. He showed respect to Eliza as to a lady in society. Again a confident and assured presentation.

Alfred Doolittle
This is not an easy part to portray and described by Shaw as an elderly but vigorous dustman, with an expressive voice as a result of giving vent to his feelings. This actor looked good as he entered and his movements were effective at most times. His speeches are really social comments by Shaw but this actor did not fully employ the sense of the speeches, and often lacked the comic timing necessary. He needs to consider the key words in the dialogue and to avoid delivering lines as if learned. We want to believe they are being spoken in the moment. His reactions at most times were effective and he looked to be listening to the other characters. I feel though more direction was needed to shape this actors performance.

Mrs Higgins
Here was a gracious and generous woman Intelligent and capable of putting Henry in his place. This actress showed these qualities in a very measured and dignified way. Her vocal and verbal delivery was crisp and open and her actions and reactions were apt. She showed ownership of the character. A very confident presentation throughout.

This is an upper class young man of around twenty somewhat weak but good-natured. The actor in this role gave a good performance and showed his feelings for Eliza. He was vocally open but at times the diction lacked clarity. As I stated earlier his costume did not do him any justice and could have been a little smarter.

Mrs Eynsford Hill
This rather quiet well-bred lady came over very well and showed her awareness of social decorum
She was suitably costumed. In the Covent Garden scene at the start the diction was rather marred. She reacted well to the utterings of Eliza in their first meeting. An assured performance in all the

This young lady is described as rather gullible and easily disgusted. The actress showed this in the first scene of the play. A minor role but played with confidence and a sense of place. Her costume looked pleasing and colourful.

Mrs Pearce
Higgins middle class housekeeper, very practical and not afraid of reproaching Higgins for his lack of social graces. This performance again was solid and assured showing confidence and experience. Her movements and reactions in her scenes were effective and well handled.

Minor Characters
The actors who played various minor parts were focused and showed good teamwork. The costumes were well chosen. . The dance sequence in the ballroom was well rehearsed and delightful to watch and the exit was effective. Neppomuck, the Hungarian, gave a rather tame performance. He is described as hairy and he oils his way around the room. Although the part is a minor this actor could have projected a bigger character in the ballroom scene. The accordion played was delightful and I would have liked to have heard more as stated earlier. The singer also gave a pleasant vocal delivery.

This was an enjoyable production with some good performances. It was visually appealing and the story was told clearly. The key point about the direction in this production is that more attention needs to be taken on the rhythm pace and clarity of delivered lines, and pace of the cues being picked up. You have worked hard as a team towards the final production and the audiences no doubt have been pleased and they certainly showed their appreciation on the evening when we attended.

John Williams
January 2009