Book – Pygmalion
Author – George Bernard Shaw
Year – 1916
Genre – Play
This is the first time this year that I have read a play in this challenge (yes, I have read the Rent script several thousand times, but after the first time it ceases to count) and I made it one with a connection to what I am doing. Pygmalion is the play on which DAODS next musical My Fair Lady is based, and I thought this would be a perfect bit of background reading – and seeing as how I spotted it in a charity shop on the afternoon of the first rehearsal day, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
And I am really glad I did. The impression I have from skimming the first few pages of the My Fair Lady script is that it is massively similar to the play it is based on – even down to large sections of the script being exactly the same. The Shaw play is excellent, so this is definitely a great thing.
The characters of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins are now massively famous, and rightly so. Eliza is a strong willed woman being written in a time where women were denied a massive role in society. Shaw has obvious feminist leanings throughout the play, and Eliza’s interaction with the equally strong minded and socially inept Higgins is wonderful – particularly in their set piece at the end of the play.
But even beyond that, the characters of Pickering and, particularly, Alfred Doolittle are brilliant, and each page makes you see each side of the coin between Higgins and Eliza. It’s a wonderful play that despite being nearly one hundred years old still remains relevant and enjoyable. Apparently My Fair Lady made more money for the Shaw estate than everything else he did put together, so Pygmalion will always live on, but it is definitely worth more people reading the play aside from just knowing musical it became.
As a small aside, it is interesting to note that the part that I have been given in My Fair Lady goes under a different name in Pygmalion. Whereas my character will be called Zoltan Karpathy, the original work calls him Nepommuck. And the character himself likes to be known as ‘Hairy Faced Dick’. So typecast.
And completely unrelated, the show I am directing, Rent, starts next week, 25th to 29th March. Come and see it because it is blooming brilliant! Tickets on 020 8300 8148.