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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 …
076 – Othello, by William Shakespeare

076 – Othello, by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s devastating exploration of race, reputation and jealousy, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a popular success when it was first performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in the centuries since it has provoked a wide range of responses as successive generations have grappled with the racial identity of the eponymous character. As we record this episode a new production of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London views the play’s treatment of race through a contemporary lens, setting the play within the London Metropolitan police force, a topical environment for racial inspection.

I am privileged to welcome as my guest someone especially qualified to help us navigate the tricky waters of Shakespeare’s play, Farah Karim-Cooper, Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kings College London, and the author of The Great White Bard – Shakespeare, Race and the Future.

Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davies as Iago
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Photo by Johan Persson

075 – The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter

075 – The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter’s disturbing exploration of toxic masculinity and sexual maneuvering, The Homecoming premiered in 1965. The play’s portrait of misogyny, and even more disturbing, the apparent female complicity, was shocking at the time it was written. Nearly 60 years on the sexual politics is if anything even more difficult to watch. So what was Pinter’s purpose in presenting such a provocative piece, and how do we process it in the post Me-Too age?

I am joined by Matthew Dunster, the director of a scintillating new production of the play at the Young Vic in London, who can help us answer those questions about Pinter’s challenging classic.

Lisa Diveney as Ruth at the Young Vic – photo by Dean Chalkley.

074 – Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen

074 – Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.

Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps us review Ibsen’s unflinching drama.

Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, December 2023. Photo by Marc Brenner.

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 …
076 – Othello, by William Shakespeare

076 – Othello, by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s devastating exploration of race, reputation and jealousy, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a popular success when it was first performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in the centuries since it has provoked a wide range of responses as successive generations have grappled with the racial identity of the eponymous character. As we record this episode a new production of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London views the play’s treatment of race through a contemporary lens, setting the play within the London Metropolitan police force, a topical environment for racial inspection.

I am privileged to welcome as my guest someone especially qualified to help us navigate the tricky waters of Shakespeare’s play, Farah Karim-Cooper, Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kings College London, and the author of The Great White Bard – Shakespeare, Race and the Future.

Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davies as Iago
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Photo by Johan Persson

075 – The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter

075 – The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter’s disturbing exploration of toxic masculinity and sexual maneuvering, The Homecoming premiered in 1965. The play’s portrait of misogyny, and even more disturbing, the apparent female complicity, was shocking at the time it was written. Nearly 60 years on the sexual politics is if anything even more difficult to watch. So what was Pinter’s purpose in presenting such a provocative piece, and how do we process it in the post Me-Too age?

I am joined by Matthew Dunster, the director of a scintillating new production of the play at the Young Vic in London, who can help us answer those questions about Pinter’s challenging classic.

Lisa Diveney as Ruth at the Young Vic – photo by Dean Chalkley.

074 – Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen

074 – Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.

Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps us review Ibsen’s unflinching drama.

Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, December 2023. Photo by Marc Brenner.