ALISTAIR MCGOWAN reprises his West End role as Henry Higgins in a new production of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, which is at the Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from Monday to Saturday, April 7th to 12th.
The aristocratic and egocentric Professor of Phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet with his friend, the amiable Colonel Pickering, that he can transform the manners and speech of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle and pass her off as a lady in society.
Packed with a host of larger than life characters including Alfred Doolittle and lovelorn Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Pygmalion remains one of the most popular of Bernard Shaw’s plays and is perhaps best known as the inspiration for the musical My Fair Lady.
BAFTA Award-winning Alistair McGowan stars as Henry Higgins, a role he played at the Garrick Theatre in 2011. Regarded as one of the most talented people working in entertainment today, he is a writer, impressionist and comic and has established himself as a formidable actor in recent years, receiving critical acclaim for several West End appearances including Little Shop of Horrors, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination.
Alistair agreed eagerly to re visit the part of Higgins.
“I like him, I know him and we both share an interest in the specifics of the smallest sounds and we are both fascinated by what accent can say about who we are. We still make judgements about people, based on how they sound: you hear someone speak and within a couple of sentences, it says something about their background.”
Alistair reveals that he shares certain personality traits with Higgins. “I can get quite irritable about life and Higgins can get extremely irritable. I generally go out of my way to be sensitive to other people’s needs but Higgins barely notices anybody else; he’s obsessed with his subject and obsessed by his work. In a way, it’s quite therapeutic for me to get rid of my dark side through playing Higgins.”
Rula Lenska joins Alistair to play Mrs Higgins and Jamie Foreman will play Alfred Doolittle. Rula is a one of our leading stage and television actors with appearances in several major TV series including her role as Claudia Colby in Coronation Street.
At the time of writing, in the second week of rehearsal, Rula had been enjoying the process of exploring Pygmalion.
“With this play, it’s important to work out what is not on the page,“ Rula explains. “We’ve talked about the times in which the play is set and about the relationships between the characters. How tactile were people a hundred years ago? I’m a very touchy-feely person myself and I’ve had to stop myself at times as Mrs. Higgins, from reaching out a hand. After all, she has impeccable manners and is something of a grande dame. She certainly expects to be listened to. Yet for all her courtesy, her son has no sense of social graces.”
Jamie Foreman has over thirty film credits to his name including Layer Cake and Polanski’s Oliver Twist. His television credits include the long-running role of Derek Branning in Eastenders and Pygmalion marks his return to the stage.
According to Jamie, he’s been away from the live theatre for twenty years as he’s pursued a career in film and on television. Inevitably some of the theatre muscles, including the ability to memorise lines, have become a little stiffer than once they were. “Doolittle – and you could say Shaw in general – never uses one word where twenty will do.” says Jamie feelingly. “There’s been a lot to learn. I’ve been busy breaking down the speeches and I’ve managed to get off the book at least for Act One.”
Rising star Rachel Barry will play Eliza. Rachel was most recently seen in the West End in Michael Grandage’s acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Tony Award-winning David Grindley directs.
A classic British drama, this ever-entertaining theatrical tour de force is full of Shaw’s trademark wit, style and provocative insights, as well as a beguiling and enduring humour.
Tickets for Pygmalion are on sale now! You can book yours by calling the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Box Office on (01483) 44 00 00 or by visiting the website at www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk
23rd February Cambridge Arts Theatre
3rd March Cambridge Arts Theatre
10th March Aberdeen, His Majesty’s Theatre
17th March Brighton Theatre Royal
24th March Bath Theatre Royal
31st March Leeds Grand Theatre
7th April Guildford Yvonne Arnaud
14th April Richmond Theatre
21st April Newcastle Theatre Royal
28th April Malvern Festival Theatre
5th May Oxford Play¬house
12th May Coventry Belgrade
2nd June Canterbury Marlowe Theatre
9th June Plymouth Theatre Royal
16th June Norwich Theatre Royal
Monday 17th March 2014