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27th Aug 2022

My Fair Lady review: An old classic gets new life as it heads from the West End to Dublin

Ellen Fitzpatrick

A must see show.

As My Fair Lady heads to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in October, I was treated to a preview showing on London’s West End.

My Fair Lady is an iconic piece of theatre, we all remember the 1964 film with Audrey Hepburn in the role of Eliza Doolittle, and as a character, it’s a name we never forget.

Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, while it was set in the depths of London city, there are aspects that always resonated with an Irish audience.

The show hit Broadway in 1956 with an unknown then Julie Andrews as its lead, and instantly made its mark as one of the best in the 20th century, picking up six Tony Awards before moving to the West End two years later with Andrews as Eliza once again.

Heading into the iconic Coliseum, the venue is simply breathtaking. As you walk in, there is a very appropriate flower shop open inside. The 2022 revival, however, is a lot different from the film I remember seeing as a child.

The story depicts east Londoner Eliza with a strong Cockney accent looking to take speech lessons as a way to sell more flowers and pass as a lady. As Henry Higgins attempts to change her language and behaviour, he ends up falling in love with her.

As it was originally written for the stage in 1913, the plot itself is outdated. A modern audience looks upon this show as something far into the past, and that was what I expected to feel coming out of this.

Depicting women in a sexist way and assuming their only value comes from the workings of a man is not something that would be written today, let alone be something less than alien. While the material director Barlett Sher was working with is a reflection of the time, he has managed to make it feel as though it isn’t.

In this production, there have been added aspects of the suffragette movement, while brief, it reminds us that women’s role in society was starting to change for the better, and this production shows it in more ways than one.

Taking a different approach to the ending, Eliza chooses to take her own path and not be defined by a man, something that would have been unheard of originally but needed to appeal to 21st century audience. And it was done so effortlessly that you would assume it was the original ending.

While the rest was exactly as expected, the production value in this show was second to none. From the costumes and the set to the talent, it immediately made sense as to why it was revived on Broadway in 2018, brought to the West End and heading on a UK and Ireland tour.

Stages in older theatres tend to be smaller than we’re used to in Ireland, but they used every inch to their advantage. With some of the most realistic props and background, there was not a detail left out.

The costumes looked as if they had come straight from the 1910s, but on today’s cast and those wearing them were doing so with the utmost delicacy.

Starring in this production was Amara Okereke as Eliza and, with The Crown and Downton Abbey star Harry Hadden-Paton reprising his Broadway role as Higgins and comedian Stephen K. Amos as Alfred P. Doolittle who all played a blinder.

The show comes to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on October 6th until October 30th, with Eastender’s Adam Woodyatt and Lesley Garrett joining for the tour, and if you’re buying a ticket for the theatre this year, it would be a waste if it wasn’t this show.