BBC Radio 7
Adapted into a 90-minute format by John Tydeman for the old Radio 4 Saturday
Night Theatre slot, this version cut down Shaw's play to the bare minimum, placing particular emphasis on the final
exchange between Higgins (Simon Cadell) and Eliza (Imelda Staunton). By such means Tydeman - who also directed -
transformed Pygmalion into a battle of wills between two characters of similar strength and determination.
The production prepared for this climactic scene by emphasizing the manipulativeness
of Higgins' experiment. As portrayed by Cadell, he came across as a self-centred pedagogue, full of his own importance yet possessing
the emotional depth of a five-year-old child. Eliza did not mean much to Higgins, except as an object for his research.
Higgins' mother (Rachel Gurney) rapidly saw through her son's plans, and the destructive effect that they might have on Eliza.
Despite his basically generous nature, Colonel Pickering (Edward Hardwicke) was as childlike as Higgins;
it was he who suggested the experiment in the first place, and at the end of the production he pleaded with Eliza
to return to Higgins' house and thereby sustain the patriarchal social order which hitherto prevailed.
Set against these two men was Eliza, who in Staunton's performance gradually acquired
the kind of inner strength that enabled her to make decisions for herself. This had absolutely nothing to do with her ability
to speak the Queen's English: Staunton communicated this strength through a gradually deepening tone of voice, emphasizing harsh
consonants and ending her sentences with frequent crescendoes, as if unwilling to tolerate any more of Higgins' insults. By
the end of the production she had acquired sufficient verbal weapons to outwit her former mentor as she proposed quite
seriously to set herself up as a rival phoenetics expert. Higgins quite naturally tried to silence her; Eliza's response was
to laugh contemptuously, particularly when he threatened to wring her neck.
As the production concluded, so the play's power-relations gradually reversed;
now it was Higgins who was unsure of his moral ground, as he contemplated the prospect of Eliza living her own life. Eliza knew
this, as she informed him in no uncertain times that he did not require any new neckties, and that Colonel Pickering preferred
Double Gloucester to Stilton cheese. She knew the ins and outs of the professor's life; Higgins, on the other hand, knew very
little about her existence.
While Tydeman's revival might not be considered 'feminist' in its approach, it nonetheless
took an unsentimental view of Shaw's text, by showing Higgins as a fundamentally brutal man who deserved everything he got
at the end. Having said that, Tydeman's production was also very funny, especially in the scenes involving Alfred P. Doolittle
(James Grout), an inoffensive member of the "underserving poor" ruined by Higgins' meddling. However Alfred had the last
laugh on the professor, as he married his long-term girlfriend and set up on his own as an orator. He provided the example
for his daughter to follow.