The Junior Play this summer was Pygmalion; it was directed brilliantly by Karen Pickles, accompanied by some great acting and a wonderful set. Pygmalion is the play written by George Bernard Shaw, which the film ‘My Fair Lady’ was based on so it is the very well known story of the flower girl Eliza Doolittle and the linguistic scientist Professor Higgins. Professor Higgins - played by Moy Cohen Col - is a professor of phonetics and Colonel Pickering – played by Tomas Panto - is a linguist of Indian dialects. The first bets the other that he can, with his knowledge of phonetics, transform the cockney-speaking flower girl, Eliza Doolittle – played brilliantly by Sasha Hornak – into a women as poised and well-spoken as a duchess. What neither of the men reckons on is the close affection that will grow between them and Eliza as they realise that they have become “accustomed to her face”.
The audience were treated to some energized photos in the foyer before we even got into the auditorium, increasing the excitement for the play to begin. The set was simple with two long doors that would open up onto the stage revealing a projected screen behind that would be the backdrop for each scene. This was very effective as it meant that the stage could be relatively simple without looking empty. For example Professor Higgins’ study only needed two armchairs and a desk because the fire and the gramophone were on the screen in the background. The play began with a series of freeze frames depicting a typical scene in Covent Garden with nearly everyone in the cast on stage all striking different poses in four different swaths of light. What followed was extraordinary – you had to keep reminding yourself that it was only a junior production and the actors and actresses on the stage were all 14 and 15 years old. As two years groups they do have potential for some very impressive shows in the future.
Sasha Hornak, who played Eliza, led the acting. She was enchanting to watch and fitted the role perfectly being petite and feisty, her accent was perfect the whole way through, and it was particularly impressive in the transition between the awful cockney and beautiful well-spoken English in one scene. Sasha carried the whole show and was amazing to watch; she remembered every line perfectly and was completely thorough throughout the show, down to her background mumbling of the fact that she is a “good girl” or her interest in arranging her flowers neatly at the start in her large basket. Alongside Sasha was Moy Cohen Col, who as took the role of Professor Higgins. The two worked excellently together and the audience could really feel the connection that the two had by the end. Moy had the English Gentleman’s accent down to a tee, it was perfect throughout and he played the awfully ignorant man, oblivious to female feelings wonderfully, slouching in chairs and wandering around looking for his slippers ignoring the downtrodden Eliza.
Tomas Panto who portrayed Colonel Pickering accompanied Moy and Sasha in nearly every scene – he is a new actor on the Clifton drama scene but his debut performance was very impressive and I am sure he will continue to take lead roles in the future. He also had the English accent perfected and did not slip up in his role once, whether it was by using his walking stick or always being sweet to Eliza. Other notable performances came from Angus Clark who played Eliza’s drunken father who comes into riches when a benefactor dies leaving him money. Angus had the character of the useless badly mannered father sorted, he sat in every chair with awful posture and even after his transition into a middle class, well dressed gentleman he still had the cockney accent. Mrs. Pearce played by Holly Portno was impressive. She played the persuasive housekeeper who kept the moral high ground throughout the show well. Holly and Sasha had an amusing moment when they went behind the projected screen for Eliza’s bath time we could see Mrs. Pearce pulling Eliza behind her towards the bathtub.
The Eynsford Hill family all portrayed snobbish upper class ideals very well, especially Carlotta Parish and Molly Woolfson who played Clara and Mrs. Enynsford Hill. Freddie played by Charlie Stagg was the perfect useless lover who was happy to help in every situation but always a few steps behind the women. Finally Constance Everett-Pite played Mrs Higgins – Professor Higgins’ mother, she was the voice of reason in every scene and always delivered her lines with the authority a mother would have had.
It was a wonderful play, with some really amazing costumes especially in the ball scene with some lovely jewellery and dresses. The hair and makeup was beautiful and inspiring, making the young actors and actresses look far older, allowing them to get into their characters better. It was wonderfully directed by Karen Pickles and the once dance scene was beautifully choreographed by Jody Lewarne. Everyone involved should be very proud of him or herself because it was a very impressive, well produced production which ran smoothly from start to finish enchanting us all. Congratulations to the cast and backstage crew of the Junior Play 2015!