REVIEW: A festive loverly from The Mill at Sonning

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My Fair Lady Mill at Sonning CREDIT Geraint Lewis

A PLAY adapted from a film adapted from a play is the festive offering from The Mill at Sonning this Christmas period.

My Fair Lady, based on the 1964 film of the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, which was adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion, opened at The Mill at Sonning on Thursday, November 23.

But while Hepburn, Harrison et al had a cast of hundreds to bring their production to life, The Mill  has scaled the cast down somewhat to just 12 actors and five musicians.

But that is not to say that their offering is any less impressive: in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Everyone knows the name Eliza Doolittle: the street urchin flower girl who is plucked from obscurity by a well-to-do scholar of phonetics and transformed into a proper lady, all for the sake of a bet.

Bethan Nash is charming as the diamond in the rough Eliza: you instantly warm to her and root for her throughout. Her transformation from gobby commoner to dainty duchess is thoroughly entertaining, and her accent changes are incredibly spot-on.

Martin Fisher plays the professor Henry Higgins, a character you love to hate. His intentions are mean-spirited and snobby, but Eliza’s charm eventually wears through and he sees her for what she really is.

Eric Carte plays the voice of conscience, Colonel Pickering, a man who is far above Eliza in social class, but is able to see her as a human being from the outset. His stark contrast to Professor Higgins plays as a constant reminder to audience that although social injustice was rife in 1912, not everyone sang the same tune.

Susan Kyd plays a superb Mrs Higgins, her withering glares cut her son down to size as she warms to Eliza in the most unexpected way. Reminiscent of Dame Judi Dench’s Lady Catherine de Bourg in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, you expect her to be cold and heartless towards Eliza, but even though she is completely aware of her background, she welcomes her nonetheless.

Phil Snowden steals the show as Eliza’s down-and-out father Alfred Doolittle. His hilarious romp through the toe-tapping With A Little Bit Of Luck demonstrated the talents and energy of the small cast, receiving a huge cheer from the audience. Snowden’s comical timing continued with the brilliant Get Me To The Church On Time, proving that you can take the man out of the gutter, but you can’t take the gutter out of the man.

Supported by an incredibly talented ensemble who keep the action moving and the attention grasped, the cast and crew do a fantastic job of creating a large-scale production in such a small space.

The set designs and costumes place you right in the centre of the action, and would not be out of place in a West End show.

Credit must also go to the musicians behind the scenes: creating a huge sound from only five people is an incredible feat.

If you fancy giving the traditional Christmas pantos a miss this year, My Fair Lady is the show for you. With a brilliant repertoire of songs, heartening story and just the right amount of comedy, you will leave the theatre thinking it was more than alright: it was ‘loverly’.

My Fair Lady is at The Mill at Sonning until January 27. Tickets start from £55 which includes a two-course dinner. For more information and to book, visit www.millatsonning.com or call the Box Office on 0118 9698000.

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