Watch bedraggled flower girl blossom into a Duchess at Welwyn Garden City theatre

Colin Macleod as Colonel Pickering, Katherine Steed as Eliza Doolittle, and Russell Vincent as Professor Higgins in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.

Colin Macleod as Colonel Pickering, Katherine Steed as Eliza Doolittle, and Russell Vincent as Professor Higgins in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.

John Davies

Pygmalion by celebrated playwright George Bernard Shaw opens at a Welwyn Garden City later this week.

Russell Vincent as Professor Higgins, Katherine Steed as Eliza Doolittle, Maureen Davies as Mrs Eynsford-Hill, and Naomi Meaden as Clara Eynsford-Hill in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.Russell Vincent as Professor Higgins, Katherine Steed as Eliza Doolittle, Maureen Davies as Mrs Eynsford-Hill, and Naomi Meaden as Clara Eynsford-Hill in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.

Playwright Bernard Shaw lived at Shaw’s Corner in Ayot St Lawrence.

And the Barn Theatre will be staging perhaps Shaw’s most famous work, Pygmalion, from Friday, June 15.

Linda Dyne, who directed a terrific production of Steel Magnolias two seasons ago, returns to the Barn to direct the penultimate show of the current season.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Shaw wrote over 60 plays, of which Pygmalion is probably the greatest and most entertaining.

Pygmalion can be seen at the Barn TheatrePygmalion can be seen at the Barn Theatre

When it was first staged at His Majesty’s Theatre in April 1914, Eliza Doolittle – played by 49-year-old Mrs Patrick Campbell – brought the house down with her ‘Walk! Not bloody likely’.

There can be few people who don’t know the story.

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.

She conquers not only the voice and behaviour patterns that Higgins is teaching her, but also the heart of a young aristocrat.

Colin Macleod as Colonel Pickering, Russell Vincent as Professor Higgins. in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.Colin Macleod as Colonel Pickering, Russell Vincent as Professor Higgins. in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.

Over the years we have seen many workings of it, on both stage and screen, with perhaps the most popular and famous being the 1964 film My Fair Lady, with its unforgettable music and expletives that no longer shocked the audience.

What we have here, though, is the original, as Shaw intended it, without the music.

Linda Dyne, who has directed the piece in its various forms many times, remains faithful to the clever, witty dialogue.

She said: “I love the text – it’s full of quick, easy humour.

Peter Dawson as Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.Peter Dawson as Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies.

“So much of the fun comes from situations where the social and gender differences between the characters bring unexpected twists and turns.

“The dialogue and characterisation are brilliant.

“The success of the play is based on audiences not missing the well-known songs as they are caught up in the richness of the story.”

Katherine Steed, last seen at the Barn playing Louise de Keroualle in Nell Gwynn, swaps French for Cockney to play Eliza Doolittle.

Russell Vincent, absent from the Barn stage for some time, returns to play Henry Higgins.

It will be interesting to see what Sarah Doyle-Smith does with this housekeeper role after her stand-out performance, earlier in the season, of the hilariously bolshie Mexican housekeeper in Glorious.

The show runs from Friday, June 15 to Saturday, June 23.

Evening performances are at 8pm and there’s a 2.30pm matinee on the final day of the play’s run.

• Tickets cost £13 online at www.barntheatre.co.uk or from the box office on 01707 324300.

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