On Thursday night, I went to see a production of Pygmalion, originally a play by George Bernard Shaw, performed by the Headlong theatre company. It was quirky, comical and quite different from any other show I've seen.
The play opened with a collection of voice-overs that sounded like the cast were talking to each other about delivering the lines, immediately drawing in the audience’s attention with the curious nature of the opening.
At first, the set was very minimalistic as most of it was blocked off with a projector screen; the performers performed in front of it to begin with, before the screen was used to show the audience a video of a scene transition. The video started where the acting left off, creating a seamless transition whilst also keeping the audience engaged by using different visual mediums. This happened a few times throughout the performance.
"It is an inspiring and exciting play that I would highly recommend if you enjoy engaging and thought-provoking theatre."
The combination of live acting and pre-recorded sections really brought the piece to life and made the audience pay attention to what was happening on stage. Sound was also used spectacularly as there were points in the play where one of the main characters, Higgins, played by Alex Beckett, would mess around with the audio of the people around him by speeding up or slowing down their voices. Towards the end of the first act, there was a musical interlude where he mashed up phrases of one of the characters to create a song, adding a comical moment to an already very funny play.
The second act was more serious but stayed lighthearted in its nature. Higgins, as a character, is cool and objective towards Eliza Doolittle (another central character) and treats her just like an experiment - which is essentially what they use her for- as the play is about turning her, a Cockney flower- girl, into an articulate middle-class lady. The main theme of the play is society and class, and how language plays a part in the divide separating the working class and the middle class. The theme comes across quite clearly with some characters speaking directly to the audience and asking their opinion, like when Eliza’s dad says at the end of a lengthy monologue about wealth and class: “Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.” This makes the audience think and engage with what he is saying, as opposed to sitting back and watching superficially.
Apart from being an enjoyable play to watch, it was also quite educational - coming from a drama student perspective. We are studying a play called ‘Machinal’ by Sophie Treadwell for our written exam, and there will be a question on how a scene in the play could be performed. After watching Pygmalion, there are quite a few ideas that could be applied that we may not have come up with on our own, such as the use of a large glass box to isolate characters from one another.
It is an inspiring and exciting play that I would highly recommend if you enjoy engaging and thought-provoking theatre.
By Rebecca Thomson, first year Drama student
Posted by The BSFC Blogger on 10 March 2017
Category: The Student Voice