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068 – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

068 – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

Patsy Ferran as Eliza and 
Bertie Carvel as Higgins
Pygmalion at The Old Vic Theatre
September 2023
Photo by Manuel Harlan

 

068 – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

Pygmalion is arguably George Bernard Shaw’s most famous play, partly of course because it spawned the even-more famous musical and film My Fair Lady. So many will be familiar with the story of the flower-girl, Eliza Doolittle, whom the phonetics professor Henry Higgins tutors to replace her spirited Cockney speech and character with the received pronunciation and deportment worthy of the English drawing-room. The enduring popularity of Pygmalion can be attributed to the romantic arc of its central story, and to the fact that it offers two iconic parts in the characters of Eliza and Higgins.

As we record this episode, the improbable couple are currently being played in a new production at The Old Vic theatre in London by two of our most respected stage actors, Patsy Ferran and Bertie Carvel. Shaw’s own reaction to his play’s popularity was typically contrary and immodest: “There must be something radically wrong with the play if it pleases everybody, but at the moment I cannot find what it is.” 

Well judging by its continuing popularity, there can’t be much wrong with this play, but to help me assess Shaw’s parable of social mobility I’m delighted to welcome back to the podcast our go-to Shaw expert, Ivan Wise. I was fortunate enough to talk to Ivan about the first Shaw play that we covered on the podcast, Arms and the Man, in episode 57.

Check out our review of the Old Vic production of Pygmalion here: The Play Review – Pygmalion

Ivan Wise

Ivan Wise is the editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society, a post he returned to in 2023, having previously edited the journal for five years from 2005 to 2010. He has lectured on Shaw at the Carlow Festival in Ireland, the Shaw Festival in Canada and at Shaw’s Corner in Hertfordshire, and has written about Shaw for the Times Literary and Higher Education Supplements. He has also been an expert witness on Shaw on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives.

Ivan also presents the podcast Better Known, which asks guests to nominate six things that they love that they think should be better known.

Recommended Play

Ivan recommended Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill.

Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion include an intriguing fact about a special guest at the premiere of the play, more observations on the ending of the play and what happened afterwards to Eliza, and a tribute to the genius of Alfred Doolittle.

Become a Patron!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as early access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
Douglas

The Texts
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them from our selected partners Bookshop.org and Blackwell’s. Not only will you be supporting independent booksellers, we will also earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. Click on the cover to buy from our chosen partner. Thank you.
You might also be interested in …
082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

Published 20th June

Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things is a blisteringly frank and funny portrait of addiction and invented identity. When the play premiered at the National Theatre in 2015, Denise Gough won awards for her electrifying performance, and as we record this episode she revives her role in London’s West End.

It is a fascinating and challenging play, and an exhilarating piece of theatre. I am delighted to talk with its author, Duncan Macmillan, and the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin.

081 – The Government Inspector, by Nikolay Gogol

081 – The Government Inspector, by Nikolay Gogol

Vladimir Nabokov described The Government Inspector as the “greatest play in the Russian language”. Gogol’s comedy of mistaken identity is an unexpected mix of fantastical farce and serious social satire. that has survived as a paradigm of political corruption and social hypocrisy in any age or place.

As we record this episode a new adaptation of the play written and directed by Patrick Myles arrives on the London stage, and I’m delighted to talk with Patrick about this classic play and its enigmatic author.

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill wrote his autobiographical magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night, in 1941, but because of the personal revelations it contained he gave explicit instructions that it was not to be published until 25 years after his death and that it should never be staged. In the event his widow allowed both to occur in 1956, only three years after his death, when the play won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer prize.

As we record this episode, a powerful new production of the play is playing in London, with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson heading the cast. I am delighted and privileged to talk with the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin, about O’Neill’s monumental play.

Photo by Johan Persson.

Ivan Wise

Ivan Wise

Ivan Wise

Ivan Wise is the editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society, a post he returned to in 2023, having previously edited the journal for five years from 2005 to 2010. He has lectured on Shaw at the Carlow Festival in Ireland, the Shaw Festival in Canada and at Shaw’s Corner in Hertfordshire, and has written about Shaw for the Times Literary and Higher Education Supplements. He has also been an expert witness on Shaw on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives.​

Ivan also presents the podcast Better Known, which asks guests to nominate six things that they love that they think should be better known.

Recommended Play(s)

In episode 57 Ivan recommended The Philanthropist by Christopher Hampton.
In episode 68 Ivan recommended Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill.

 

 

 

 

 

057 – Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw

057 – Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw

Alex Bhat as Major Sergius Saranoff
at the Orange Tree Theatre
Richmond 2022-23
Photo by Ellie Kurttz

 

057 – Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw

Arms and the Man was George Bernard Shaw’s first public success as playwright when it premiered in the West End of London in 1894, and as it happens it is the first play by Shaw that we have covered on the podcast. The play is both an effervescent romantic comedy and a telling satire of love, war and social pretension. As we record this episode it is being revived in a joyous production at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, south-west London, directed by its outgoing Artistic Director Paul Miller.

My guest to help us survey the battlefield of love in late 19th century Bulgaria is Shaw expert, Ivan Wise. Ivan was the editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society from 2005 to 2010.

Ivan Wise

Ivan was the editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society, for five years from 2005 to 2010. He has lectured on Shaw at the Carlow Festival in Ireland, the Shaw Festival in Canada and at Shaw’s Corner in Hertfordshire, and has written about Shaw for the Times Literary and Higher Education Supplements. He was recently the expert witness on Shaw on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives.

Ivan also presents the podcast Better Known, which asks guests to nominate six things that they love that they think should be better known.

Recommended Play

Ivan recommended The Philanthropist by Christopher Hampton.

Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on George Bernard Shaw’s romantic comedy Arms and the Man include further observations on Shaw’s satire of social pretensions, as well as references to a few of the great names who have taken on the role of Major Sergius Saranoff.

Become a Patron!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
Douglas

The Texts
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them from our selected partners Bookshop.org and Blackwell’s. Not only will you be supporting independent booksellers, we will also earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. Click on the cover to buy from our chosen partner. Thank you.
You might also be interested in …
082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

082 – People, Places & Things by Duncan Macmillan

Published 20th June

Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things is a blisteringly frank and funny portrait of addiction and invented identity. When the play premiered at the National Theatre in 2015, Denise Gough won awards for her electrifying performance, and as we record this episode she revives her role in London’s West End.

It is a fascinating and challenging play, and an exhilarating piece of theatre. I am delighted to talk with its author, Duncan Macmillan, and the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin.

081 – The Government Inspector, by Nikolay Gogol

081 – The Government Inspector, by Nikolay Gogol

Vladimir Nabokov described The Government Inspector as the “greatest play in the Russian language”. Gogol’s comedy of mistaken identity is an unexpected mix of fantastical farce and serious social satire. that has survived as a paradigm of political corruption and social hypocrisy in any age or place.

As we record this episode a new adaptation of the play written and directed by Patrick Myles arrives on the London stage, and I’m delighted to talk with Patrick about this classic play and its enigmatic author.

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

080 – Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill wrote his autobiographical magnum opus, Long Day’s Journey into Night, in 1941, but because of the personal revelations it contained he gave explicit instructions that it was not to be published until 25 years after his death and that it should never be staged. In the event his widow allowed both to occur in 1956, only three years after his death, when the play won O’Neill his fourth Pulitzer prize.

As we record this episode, a powerful new production of the play is playing in London, with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson heading the cast. I am delighted and privileged to talk with the production’s director, Jeremy Herrin, about O’Neill’s monumental play.

Photo by Johan Persson.