Arena Theatre presents George Bernard Shaw's


Directed by Terri Jowett with permission from The Society of Authors

Professor of Phonetics, Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech. The play is a sharp lampoon of the rigid British class system of the day and a comment on women's independence, packaged as a romantic comedy.

  • Performance Dates
  • There are no scheduled performances of this production.
Blog Updates
Terri Jowett - Pygmalion - readthrough and audition      12/10/2011

The readthrough for Pygmalion will take place at Avonbourne School on Monday, 14 November 2011 at 7.30pm. Auditions will take place on Thursday, 24 November 2011, also at Avonbourne, 7.30pm.
Terri Jowett - Pygmalion - Readthroughs, Auditions and Rehearsals      30/10/2011

Wow!  How time flies! With all the rehearsals and performances of our recent productions going on I had almost forgotten that I would need to prepare for the readthrough and auditions for my own production, Pygmalion. It's all very exciting, and I hope I get a good turn out . . .come one, come all! Readthrough - 14 November, 7.30pm, Avonbourne School Audition - 24 November, 7.30pm, Avonbourne School
Terri Jowett - Pygmalion Cast      29/11/2011

The women are cast and I'm working on the men.  I will drag them off the street if I have to, but I rather hope it doesn't come to that.  Who knows, by this time next week I may have a full complement of actors.
Terri Jowett - Urgent Pleas!      28/12/2011

First Plea - We have already had to cancel our first play of the 2012 season, Talk Radio, due to a lack of men, please don't force us to do the same to the second play, Pygmalion.  We need a gentlemen to play the part of Colonel Pickering, so if you are one, or know of one, get in touch as soon as possible, please. Second plea - By September 2012 we will have lost our storage and set building facility at Sopley.  This will affect, not only us, but several local groups, including Highcliffe Charity Players, Regent Rep, Theatre 2000, and New Milton Operatic Society.  We are currently looking for a space, approximately 2000 sq ft that we can rent.  If you know of anywhere, not too far away and not ridiculously expensive, we would love to hear from you. These two problems could jeopardise the future of our group if this continues - we are asking for your support
Terri Jowett - Fully Cast!      11/01/2012

Yes, we have finally achieved the impossible and cast Pygmalion!  And a jolly fine cast they are too. Now, all we need to do is keep everyone fit and well . . .
Chris Vessey - Scene One

ON my way to the theatre, excited to see of one of the most well-crafted English plays of the 1900s, I promised myself that when I wrote the review for Arena Theatre's version of Pygmalion that I wouldn't mention 'My Fair Lady' at all in my review. Alas I'm going to fail to keep my promise. Let me explain... Now, as you may be aware, Pygmalion - one of George Bernard Shaw's most well known plays - was later interwoven with music in the 1950s by Lerner & Loewe to give us that musical theatre masterpiece "My Fair Lady". (Indeed, I heard one of the Regent Centre’s volunteers telling a prospective patron in the foyer that the play this evening was “My Fair Lady without the music...”) Now, don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not of the opinion that without music it is somehow a lesser proposition, however it was only tonight that it really clicked for me as to why the play works so magnificently as both a straight play and a musical – because, in and of itself, Pygmalion the play is a lyrical, almost poetic script which demonstrates the versatility, depth and nuance of the English language gloriously. These characteristics mean that, whether set to music or just simply spoken, the words hypnotise, engage and draw in the audience into a world of words, bringing with it humour and tears. However, in achieving these heights of literary genius, it also sets a before any drama group which would dare take it on a real challenge in terms of characterisation, articulation and atmosphere, and I’m sorry to say that tonight’s performance didn’t fare well when faced with this challenge. Yes, there were a few basic errors – mis-timed audio cues, painfully slow scene changes (using some of the performers, which never helps the audience maintain belief that the person they are watching really is their character) and an over-extended pregnant pause while one of the cast was announced to come on stage and didn’t arrive, but in some ways a play with the potential of Pygmalion possesses the strength to rise above these kinds of errors if the core scenes and the core relationships are played out well, and while in part there were some good moments, overall it didn’t quite succeed. The show opened with Eliza Doolittle on stage – well, I should say that in fact she was on stage whilst the audience were arriving. Personally, I’m a fan of this kind of thing when it helps the audience anticipate the atmosphere or adds to the mood, but I didn’t quite understand why that was done here. Dramatic preferences aside, Jill Richmond played the lead role well, considering the quantity of lines and versatility this role requires. She had a good cockney accent and her physical demeanour in this part of the role was strong also, although I think the part could have done with a little more coarseness and lung power, so as to make the transformation of Eliza into a lady all the more stirring. This missing unruly and feral edge meant that the audience’s anticipation of her transformation wasn’t as strong and so we missed that ‘wow’ factor when she opens her mouth in the infamous ‘Drawing Room Scene’. As the properly-spoken lady, she conveyed herself well vocally – with both eloquence and precision – but somehow her languid body language didn’t reflect that she’d maintained the core strength of the ‘common flower girl’ through this transition and as such the much needed foundations in her character were not present to ensure her later clashes with Higgins would succeed emotionally and so move the audience as Shaw had intended. Jeremy Mills took on the complex role of Higgins, a role which has to convey both a brutish and crassly insensitive character, whilst also expressing a kind of innocence demonstrated by his asexuality, emotional ignorance, and total attachment to his mother’s apron strings. I think he did well with the first part of Higgins’s character, possessing a real stage presence and being articulate and accurate with the delivery of a vast and complex script. However, I felt that his interpretation of Higgins lacked the sudden moments of warmth that fleetingly redeem this overgrown schoolboy and as such, the chemistry between Higgins and Eliza just wasn’t there. The final showdown between the two roles – a duologue so often filled with such a ‘Niagara Falls’ of emotions, hammering the characters and the audience like they’re going ten rounds with a champion boxer – was good, but just not quite at the level it needed to be to truly be the climax of the play. For me, this was because while these two principals had perhaps understood the rhythm and poetry of the script individually, there just wasn’t the harmony needed to make the scene work as a whole. There were some strong supporting performances – notably Jason Green as the perfectly puppyish Freddy Eynsford-Hill and Carly-Ann Clarke who, though playing one of the smaller parts in the piece, really shone with confidence and character, delivering the few lines she had perfectly and helping create some of the better dynamics on stage. Special praise must go to Stephen Tonkin who bravely took on the role of Eliza’s father when the original Mr Doolittle became unwell, and who coped well with some very challenging monologues. While the lyrical rhetoric and effervescence this character usually possesses wasn’t wholly present, the dynamics between him and Higgins were good and I liked him in this role. Patrick D'Ardenne took on the role of Colonel Pickering and was solid in this role, but I don’t feel we really saw enough of his gentlemanly character and as such the chemistry between Pickering and Eliza was lacking in the final scene between them, which was a shame. It’s never easy to write a review for a play which has so much potential and is such a special piece for so many people. This play relies on lyrical understanding, razor-sharp delivery and robust characterisations which will both cause hysterical laughter and electrify and stir the audience in the more emotive scenes. Arena Theatre have been known in the past for delivering the perfect balance in all these areas, but sadly tonight wasn’t one of those nights and while there were some good attempts at some really challenging roles and some great individual performances, this show may have been better staged in the Regent Studio or a more intimate venue where there isn’t as great a reliance on the script delivery to create an atmosphere and where the performers are not having to sacrifice chemistry and character to the demands of staging, scenery and the need to fill a bigger space.    
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