Be Sure to See Shaw's Pygmalion at the Tabard

Susan Stanley-Carroll hails a lively production delivered with aplomb

Eliza is introduced to high society
Francesca Ottley plays Eliza Doolittle

Pygmalion, a hilarious yet reflective play by George Bernard Shaw written in 1908, has opened at Chiswick’s Tabard Theatre. The plot influenced by the Greek myth ‘Pygmalion and Galatia’, was the inspiration, for the well known musical, ‘My Fair Lady’.

Timeless wit and wisdom flow from Shaw’s pen: he explores the paradoxes within middle class Edwardian society through sharply humorous observations and dialogue.

A lively production that is delivered with aplomb: the actors rattle off the repartee with vigour and an infectious enthusiasm.

Henry Higgins, Professor of Phonetics, accepts a bet that he can morph the guttersnipe flower seller Eliza Doolittle into a refined society beauty. Despite his phonological expertise Higgins, a mysogynist, with a chronic lack of social skills is socially inept.

Eliza, tutored by Higgins 24x7, visibly reflects her vulnerability as well as the strength of her character. She resists being transformed into a robotic person. Pickering a quintessentially Edwardian gentleman quietly supports Eliza as does Higgins’s indomitable yet gracious mother.

Cassandra Hodges perfectly fits the part of Mrs Higgins her beady, blue eyes penetrate each character, but, perhaps not Colonel Pickering, played by Andrew Lindield, whose suave charm exudes great warmth. Francesca Ottley’s poignant and feisty characterisation as Eliza dominates the stage as does the ‘naughty but nice’ Alfred Doolittle played by the versatile, charismatic Jack Matthews. He adds bounce to this well bonded cast. Christopher Walthorne’s Henry Higgins took a while to enjoy but his innovative portrayal of this character was strong and interesting.

Eliza before her transformation
Eliza before her transformation

This fast paced, elegantly choreographed Dot Production was directed by Pete Gallagher. Both the set and costumes were below the usual standard of productions at the Tabard Theatre, but quite possibly this is due to the long travel across 32 different UK venues that account for this. It is to the credit of all the actors that my attention was eventually engaged in Shaw’s delicious plot and their polished performances.

It was great to be welcomed by the returning Tabard Managers, Simon and Sarah Reilly. They are preparing an excellent programme for the coming months and I hope the Dot Company return here next year.

Pygmalion runs from Tuesday 13 September to Saturday 1 October. If you fancy a taste of G.B Shaw make sure(!) you contact the theatre’s Box Office without further ado.

Susan Stanley-Carroll

Tickets cost £23.50 (£19.50 for concessions) other than for the first two performances which are priced at £18 (£15 for concessions).

You can book online on the Tabard Theatre web site or call the box office on 020 8995 6035 .

Theatre at the Tabard is at 2 Bath Road, Chiswick (W4 1LW).


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September 20, 2022