This famous story concerns Professor Higgins who after meeting with a common East End flower-girl in Covent Garden , makes a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering that he can train the girl in matters of speech and deportment to the extent that she could pass herself off as a society lady.
The first 20 minutes of the play is irritating, with new girl Carli Norris absolutely awful playing the common flower girl Eliza Doolittle. She is totally unconvincing and has this most annoying cry, when weeping. She fails miserably in this over the top performance. In fact, this whole scene in the market looked amateurish. However, things do begin to pick up when the professor starts to teach the girl phonetics. I found Carla Norris more adapt at playing the society lady. As the play goes on you do begin to warm to the character and she has these great facial expressions that can be smirking one minute and deadly looking the next.
Roy Marsden who plays 'Professor Higgins' comes across too hyperactive, which leaves you out of breath just watching him! But Barbara Murray who plays his mother 'Mrs Higgins' is wonderful as the kind, snobbish society lady who hates her son coming to the house because he scares her guests.
This production is a hit and miss affair and I lay the blame solely on the director Ray Cooney. He is the king of farces and it shows, as the play comes across as a farce at times, particularly the first scenes. The whole play is rushed and over the top, the sort of things that are OK for farces but not suitable for this comedy.
Most of the popular press is positive about the comedy. BILL HAGERTY of THE NEWS OF THE WORLD says "It's worth seeing for Carli alone. A fair lady indeed." NICOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says " Miss Norris looks impressively at ease, but never sounds quite at home with the role." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says "This is not an exciting revival, but it is perfectly competent" and KATE BASSETT of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH writes, "Carli Norris, fresh from drama school, is startlingly assured as Eliza Doolittle. The production has some rough edges but the cast enjoy themselves."
I'm very disappointed with this production which has a lot of holes in it, but most of the audience seemed to enjoy it and the press reports it reasonably favorably so it can't be that bad!