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What is the point of My Fair Lady?

Friday, November 18th, 2005

Last week I took Sarah to see My Fair Lady on stage at Birmingham’s Hippodrome. It was a treat. We got a babysitter. We dressed up. We ordered interval drinks. We lashed out on ice creams.

Sarah is a big fan of the movie. I’m a big fan of Sarah’s. All non-singers must admire Rex Harrison. I admire Rex Harrison. Sarah likes musicals. I have a theory about liking anything that’s good. I thought this might be good. What it actually was was rather eerie.

This National Theatre production was pretending to be the film. It was a soulless and empty simulacrum. The cast all seemed haunted by their cinematic alter-egos, no one seemed willing to make the piece their own. Trevor Nunn and his production team resisted all temptations to create a powerful piece of theatre in order to recreate the film in unblinking long shot.

Were they scared? Did they think people drawn by the film would revolt if they saw anything they didn’t recognise on stage? Did they only get the rights when they promised to change nothing at all? Where The Producers drew power from it’s theatrical setting, My Fair Lady came a cropper. Sarah and I both left wondering why we hadn’t stayed at home and watched the DVD on wide-screen. Was there any point to this exercise other than generating heaps of cash?

Still, the evening was not entirely lost. It was good to be out with Sarah. It was good to be in a big theatre dreaming. It was fun mentally redirecting someone else’s show. It was interesting reflecting how It’s Your Film and My Fair Lady both, in very different ways, attempt to look like films, one which will never be made and one which already has.

James


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