The Mill at Sonning - My Fair Lady
23rd November 2017 to 27th January 2018
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
By George, they've got it
Intimate Mill provides a big theatre experience with My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady, at The Mill at Sonning, until January 27
As the programme put it, 'We've Shaw come a long way' since George Bernard wrote Pygmalion in 1912, in an attempt to shine a light on how class and sex affect a person's experience of the world.
The play was successful, but not nearly as much as the stage musical My Fair Lady, which opened on Broadway in 1956 with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison.
The 1964 film kept Harrison, but replaced Andrews with Audrey Hepburn (who actor Emma Thompson unkindly said couldn't really act or sing). Hepburn's voice was dubbed for the songs, but Bethan Nash had no problem in this sparkling production. As Eliza Doolittle, her speech, appearance and gestures were spot-on, particularly her Cockney flowergirl in the early scenes, which she clearly relished. Martin Fisher as Henry Higgins was impressive in his portrayal of the arrogant, selfish and rude speech therapist, but missed out on the loud, flamboyant character usually associated with this part. The two actors integrated well together and both had good singing voices – always a bonus in shows like this.
His rudeness was obvious though, never more so than when he kept her for hours trying to pronounce one word.
"Didn't I sie that?", Eliza asks. "No," he replies, "you didn't even say that."
Eric Carte was a good Colonel Pickering, suitably pompous and bluff, although he did suffer one momentary blip when he addressed Higgins as Pickering. Phil Snowden had fun with the part of dustman Alfred Doolittle – loud, cocky and a perfect Jack-the-lad (although wasn't the part originally played as a coalman?).
Felicity Duncan came across as a very empathetic Mrs Pearce and Susan Kyd was a sympathetic Mrs Higgins, soon showing her affinity with the unfortunate Eliza. The 12-strong cast all did well as singers, dancers and actors, many of them doubling up parts, and Joseph Pitcher kept the pace moving along as director and choreographer. There were only four musicians, but they played with vigour and almost managed to sound like a full orchestra at times.
With a composite set, clever lighting and a dedicated cast – brilliant dance routines as well – this was a small ensemble playing up a storm and achieving a big theatre experience.