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March 28, 2001

My Fair Lady

Kenneth Tynan once remarked ‘a critic is a man who knows the way but cannot drive the car’. As I neither know the way nor can drive the car I cannot give a critical review Pirton Players recent production of My Fair Lady. What I can do is give my impressions of yet another outstanding success from an Amateur Dramatic Group which would do credit to a large provincial town – and beyond. How such a small rural village can contain so much talent is one of those unsolved mysteries. It must be something in the water.

Such a polished performance was the culmination of a great deal of hard work and talent from over a hundred people. Under the expert Direction of Roger Blackburn these efforts produced a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining show. The successful staging of My Fair Lady relies heavily on a strong performance from the Fair Lady herself. In Lou Robinson Pirton Players has an accomplished actress who managed the difficult metamorphosis from brash, cheeky flower-seller to the elegant, sophisticated lady with consummate ease. Half way through this transformation, at the Ascot Races, Lou got it just right when she so brilliantly brought out Shaw’s humour.

Anton Jungreuthmayer gave an authoritative and flawless performance as the brusque, self-absorbed Professor Higgins, changing character skilfully into a tender-hearted sentimentalist at the end. Pickering, played by Michael Tackley, was the perfect foil for Higgins. He was amiable and genial and concerned for Eliza’s welfare, in contracts with Higgins excesses in his self-obsessed pursuit of passing Eliza off as a lady. Pickering and Higgins meshed nicely together to keep the plot moving.

Running parallel to the main Eliza-Higgins duel we were treated to the humorous and boisterous Doolittle. A convincing performance by Tom Gammell combined fine singing and an authentic cockney attitude. The melodic singing of Tom, Graham Gibbs and Rod Hampson was a delight to the ear.

Choreographer Valmai Guess gave us lively dancing, in particular from two young Katies (Guess and Pearson), which added further zest to the performance. The supporting roles were carried wonderfully. Helen Hofton as Mrs Higgins gave a commanding, ‘aristocratic’ performance – very Lady Bracknell – with the hair and costume adding to her stage presence.

And what about Freddie? Filial association prevents me from saying too much, but a creditable performance from David Woodward, (one of the original Pirton Players) in his first role – if you discount juggling and playing a pair of bare legs in the Rural Variety Show. I wish I could say he inherited his voice from his father, but fortunately he didn’t. The bicycle scene was a nice touch, bringing the audience into the performance – almost literally on one night as the lady in the third row will testify. Ann Fausset as Freddie’s mother, Mrs Eynesford-Hill, provided another delightful cameo role.

Dud Gentle as Karpathy was a very convincing ‘foreign bloke’ and the Maid, Julie Dawson, accurately portrayed the efficient and common-sense housekeeper. The Company were most enthusiastic in their performance – particularly the young children. They were all obviously enjoying themselves, surely the sign of a good show.

The artistic talent on display was awesome. From make-up and hair to lighting – which I gather is now an art-form. Set construction, on the other hand, is a more inexact science. They knock screws in with spanners, hammer nails in with planes and drill holes with screwdrivers – but the result is always a convincing set. Helen Walker and her team provided spectacular costumes, authentic and glamorous which added to the success of the show. The set, designed and painted by Beth Harding, was magnificent, as those who know of Beth’s artistic talents would expect. Little touches, like an authentic newspaper for Pickering to read and period furniture – all these added greatly to the overall success of the show.

Any production relies on all these contributions but a musical demands one more thing – music and lots of it. I am sure Roger would agree that the success of My Fair Lady relied heavily on the musical talent of Margaret Johnson. Pirton Players are indeed fortunate to have such skill at their disposal. The singing was of the highest calibre. All in all a good night out – can anyone ask for more?

P.S. I have been told that no review is complete unless there is some critical element. So be it – I was very, very disappointed not to be mentioned in the credits – after all I taught Freddie to ride a bike!


[Review by Dick Woodward]

Director  -  Roger Blackburn
Musical Director - Margaret Johnson

Chorus  -  Toni Mascatiello
Chorus  -  Susie Warwicker
Chorus  -  Sue Kennedy
Chorus  -  Sophie Davies
Chorus  -  Sarah Milton
Chorus  -  Rodney Hampson
Chorus  -  Peter Johnson
Chorus  -  Penny Picken
Chorus  -  Paul Kerswill
Chorus  -  Molly Kerswill
Chorus  -  Maxine Shearer
Chorus  -  Lorna Sexton
Chorus  -  Liz Chapman
Chorus  -  Katy Guess
Chorus  -  Katie Pearson
Chorus  -  Kaffe Jungreuthmayer
Chorus  -  Juliet Alexander
Chorus  -  Jude Kerswill
Chorus  -  John Hayes
Chorus  -  Jill Rogers
Chorus  -  Jan Simmons
Chorus  -  Helen Walker
Chorus  -  Graham Gibbs
Chorus  -  Hannah Dawson
Chorus  -  Gena Edwards
Chorus  -  Fizz Gibbs
Chorus  -  Dominique Alexander
Chorus  -  Valentina Sexton
Chorus  -  Valmai Guess
Chorus  -  Viv Tyler
Chorus  -  Leonard Gibbons
Chorus  -  Keiron Jones
Colonel Hugh Pickering  -  Michael Tackley
Eliza Doolittle  -  Lou Robinson
Freddy Eynsford-Hill  -  Dave Woodward
Karpathy  -  Dudley Gentle
Mrs Eynsford-Hill  -  Ann Fausset
Mrs Higgins  -  Helen Hofton
Mrs Pearce  -  Julie Dawson
Professor Henry Higgins  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer

Box Office  -  Susie Welch
Choreography  -  Valmai Guess
Costume Design & Production  -  Helen Walker
Director  -  Roger Blackburn
Flute  -  Sylvia Fairley
Front of House  -  Kate Leafhead
Hair  -  Fran Manning
Keyboard  -  Mary Penny
Lighting  -  Derek Webb
Make-up  -  Julia Thorpe
Make-up  -  Fran Manning
Musical Director  -  Margaret Johnson
Posters & Programmes  -  Pam Finbow
Posters & Programmes  -  Tony Edwards
Posters & Programmes  -  Richard Farr
Posters & Programmes  -  Stuart Alexander
Prompt  -  Jeannie Jungreuthmayer
Props  -  Susie Welch
Props  -  Liz Gentle
Rehearsal Pianist  -  Sue Trost
Rehearsal Pianist  -  Peter Saunders
Set Construction  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Construction  -  Brian Sommerville
Sound  -  Dave Wallace
Stage Design  -  Beth Harding
Stage Manager  -  Neil Shearer
Wardrobe  -  Bren Timson


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