It is the turn of the 20th century and in a newly-industrialised England, class barriers are breaking down. Eliza Doolittle – an aspirational young flower girl with no money and unintelligible speech – sees a chance to escape the destiny of her birth.
Language lessons from the wealthy, bullying, funny linguistics professor Henry Higgins seem like just the ticket. But a ticket to what? The outcome of her training is not what she or her teacher expected. As Higgins endeavours to mould Eliza to his vision of the perfect lady, conflicting emotions and desires start to play an unexpected part.
This production of Shaw’s most popular play will embrace the aesthetic of Steampunk to explore subjects of class division and social mobility in a world where people’s worth is judged not by who they are but by the way they speak. Though reflecting the shuttered and stifling nature of Edwardian society, there are profound parallels to our own.
New Theatre welcomes back Deborah Mulhall as director, who is collaborating once again with set designer Tom Bannerman and sound designer Patrick Eades, after their huge success last year with The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
Her cast includes Steve Corner (My Night With Reg, Nell Gwynn, The Lieutenant of Inishmore) as Henry Higgins, Emma Wright (Consensual, That Eye The Sky) as Eliza Doolittle, and Shan-Ree Tan (Nell Gwynn) as Colonel Pickering.
“I’ve purposely cast Higgins as younger than usual,closer to Eliza in age,” says Deborah. “Everyone is so used to the Rex Harrison/Audrey Hepburn pairing from My Fair Lady, but lessening the age gap ups the stakes; and I’ve gone against ethnicity in casting Pickering. Avoiding the stereotypes is important.”
Speaking about her overall inspiration, Deborah explains:”The Steampunk sub-genre of science fiction is built on two concepts: ‘what if?’ and ‘motion/mobility’. And its symbol is the cog. This spoke to me so strongly as the essence of Shaw’s play, because it deals with social mobility and the consequences of actions motivated by possibilities.”
“This ethos is reflected in the set design materials of wood and metal, the costume finishes, and the visual motifs. It’s going to look spectacular! Audiences can expect a robust and entertaining production. “It’s such a funny play, Shaw’s writing is so witty. We’re having a ball in rehearsals, and we’re looking forward to bringing it to audiences,” she added.
Director: Deborah Mulhall Featuring: Colleen Cook, Steve Corner, Tiffany Hoy, Lisa Kelly, Emilia Kriketos, Natasha McDonald, Mark Norton, Robert Snars, Shan-Ree Tan, Sean Taylor, Vitas Varnas, Emma Wright, Tricia Youlden Set Designer: Tom Bannerman Lighting Designer: Mehran Mortezaei Sound Designer: Patrick Eades Costume Assistant: Fiona McClintock Assistant Director: Gundega Lapsa Accent Coach: Helen Tonkin Stage Manager: Victoria Lewis Assistant Stage Manager: Neil Parikh Crew: Emilia Kriketos, Sean Taylor, Vitas Varnas
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 25 April – 25 May 2019
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: © iiievgeniy/iStock