Not many people in their teen years have heard of the play Pygmalion. I mean most of us don’t even read plays! I read this for a school assignment but for me it became so much more. As an avid fan of the movie My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, I was extremely excited to hear that this play is what the movie was based off.
Set in the early 1900's under Edwardian rule, this play is about a teacher of phonetics, the science of speech, and Eliza Doolittle a poor flower girl trying to get by on the little amount of money she makes. Higgins meets Eliza in not the best of situations with her convinced he's a cop and thinks she was ‘coming onto’ an older gentlemen. She is absolutely horrified to say the least. You can imagine the noises she makes with her horrid cockney accent when she’s in a rush! As the play progresses Higgins decides to take Eliza on as a bet of a sort with a friend of his, Colonel Pickering a fellow linguist (scientist of speech if you will) that he could transform Eliza and even pass her off as the queen of Sheba within 13 months. A the bet progresses and Eliza is taught how to speak and act like a proper elegant and well-dressed lady, more problems, feeling, and characters come to light. The real question is will Eliza ever be able to pull it off and what will happen to her now if she doesn’t?
As a play it is very different from a book in how you read it and how to understand what exactly is happening so I’ll give you some tips. All stage directions will be in italics and [brackets], it gives actors directions for movement and expression. At the beginning of each act, think of them as chapters if you will, there will always be a very detailed setting so that you know exactly of your surroundings because that is how it was meant to be done on stage. When one character is speaking to the other it may come up with them speaking their name and then saying something aimed to them and them alone. One thing that I found to be a great help was if you completely had no clue what a word meant just have a dictionary on your lap or on a laptop. By the end of the book your vocabulary will clearly be so resplendently refined that you will be able to baffle all whom you meet just like Eliza does.
If you happen to enjoy the movie that was based of this play then I recommend you read this too as it opens your eyes so much to all of these other ideas and things that were meant to happen and coincide with each other, I for one find it absolutely fascinating.
I see now that I have rambled on quite a bit about this play probably because for me I’ve always wondered if more happened beyond the movie because as they say all of the best movies are based off books.
As far as I know this doesn’t have any prizes behind it like many others of the time but it does have a string of performances and a movie featuring some of the most brilliant actors and singers alike starring in it.
L.E Simpkin (Work Experience Student)
Note: I can add that My Fair Lady won many awards in 1965 - including Best Picture Oscar, Best Actor in a Leading Role Rex Harrison , Best Director George Cukor, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Music. Here's a clip about the making of the movie from the play. Cen