Shaw pokes fun at manners

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Happy memories of studying it at school lie behind Richard Handford’s decision to direct Pygmalion as the autumn production from The West Wittering Players.

Bernard Shaw’s landmark play - which later inspired the musical My Fair Lady - will be performed from Wednesday, November 23 to Saturday November 26 at West Wittering Memorial Hall starting at 7.30pm.

“I did it at school along with various other Shaw plays just because my English teacher liked them,” Richard recalls. “I think it’s quite an irreverent play for a start. It does poke fun at a lot of attitudes - and did actually create quite a stir at the time with some of the language (the line ‘Not bl**dy likely!’) It does also poke fun at supposedly good manners, good language, good behaviour.”

It’s a play, however, which has drawn criticism from the feminists for the way Eliza Doolittle is shaped and manipulated by the bullying Professor Higgins.

But Richard is aiming to counter that by portraying Eliza as a strong and feisty individual: “She is not the vulnerable little flower girl that she is often seen as. I don’t see it as being anti-feminist at all. I see it as being more of a feminist tract.”

Shaw actually wrote several different endings for the play: “You are free to choose your ending. We have chosen the ending that best suits the characters as depicted by us.”

Richard enjoyed the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Pygmalion last year: “It was very professional, and they were able to do things that we aren’t able to do. But I was not sure about the interpretation of some of the characters.”

The play is Richard’s second time as director for The West Wittering Players, following on from his success a couple of years ago with Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, a challenge which demanded three bedrooms side by side on stage.

The Pygmalion cast includes Catherine Wildsmith as Eliza Doolittle, Dennis Harrison as Professor Higgins, Bob Clinch as Alfred Doolittle, Malcolm Edney as Col. Pickering and Sally Hancock as Mrs. Pearce. Graham Allen, Hilary Riddell and Heather Codrai play the Eynsford Hills and Jean Durbin plays Mrs Higgins, while Julian Kennedy- Cooke and Pauline Davies take supporting roles.

Tickets are £6 and £5.50 on sale at Sayas News Rookwood Road 01243 513110.