Monday, May 06, 2019

Steam Punk Pygmalion New Theater Sydney

Saturday night I attended "Pygmalion", at the New Theater, Newtown,  Sydney. This is not My Fair Lady, and is more Weill than Lerner and Low, set in a smoggy, dangerous, grimy London.

Much was made in the promotion of this show about it being set Steampunk style. The costumes are striking, with characters adorned with assorted old odd items. Some characters reminded me a little too much of "The Doctor's Wife" episode of Dr Who. But it is worth seeing this show just for the costumes. Hopefully they will be preserved.

However, the upper-class characters were still allowed to look suitably fashionable. But, what stuck me more was how tall they looked. I spent the first thirty minutes trying to work out if it was some trick of false perspective in the set design, if the cast were on stilts, or they were just very, very, tall. After that I gave up wondering, and just enjoyed the show.

The elaborate costumes, and a few pieces of furniture, contrasted with a muted abstract set. The New Theatre doesn't have the space, or budget, for elaborate set changes, but I would have liked a little more detail and color on stage. Also I have seen a little too much of the same steel mesh ramp in New Theatre productions.

For me Mr Doolittle stole the show, with a menace underling his friendly cockney banter. Clara and Freddy were suitably upper class twitish.

The lead performances were good. However, Pickering seemed to be being played by someone channeling Kenneth Branagh, with too many flicks of the mop of hair. Eliza's flinching whenever Pickering touched her was very effective, as was her girlish glee at chocolates, contrasted with a later steely determination.

The play retains its relevance as social commentary. Especially in the middle of an election, where both our major parties are offering handouts to the middle class, but next to nothing for those on Newstart allowance, treatment of the "undeserving poor" is unfortunately very relevant.

Pygmalion is at the New Theater, Newtown, in Sydney, until 25 May. 

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