Tech week! On Saturday we ended our fourth week with a run, and various producers and artistic directors from Headlong, Nuffield and West Yorkshire Playhouse attended. This was the first time we had shared the entirety of the piece with an audience. It was daunting but also exciting to share the work and get some feedback.
We began this week with a move up North for our final full week of rehearsals before we go into tech and then open at West Yorkshire Playhouse. The show has come together in its entirety this week, and Sam has been focusing on the heightened physical language of the piece and the technical journey.
This week in ‘Pygmalion-land’ we have been looking at the filmed sequences in the show. Shaw wrote a number of these extra scenes, which were incorporated into the 1939 film version. For example, we see Eliza in a taxi, in her bedroom, and later, at a ball. Shaw writes that ‘a complete representation of the play as printed for the first time in this edition is technically possible only on the cinema screen or on stages furnished with exceptionally elaborate machinery.’ Sam’s vision, working alongside video designer Will Duke and film director Geej Ower, is for us to see these scenes via a series of filmed interludes between acts, projected onto the set.
We started week two of Pygmalion rehearsals with a much-anticipated visit from Bronwen Evans, an academic expert in phonetics (or a modern day Henry Higgins, if you like...) Bronwen spoke to us about her research into how accents change over a lifetime. She explained that our voices often contain ‘features’ of the accents we encounter so they are rarely ‘pure’ accents, and that our life choices and ambitions can shape the way we speak. We discussed the feasibility of the Eliza experiment; she thought it would be difficult for someone’s voice to be altered so drastically in the time frame, but that an incredibly controlled environment would aid that process. It was valuable to gain insight from someone with an academic and scientific relationship to the voice.
There’s something equally exciting and daunting about a first day. This is amplified when you have staff from three companies in the same room; Pygmalion is being co-produced by Headlong, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Nuffield Southampton Theatres – where we end the tour in May. This meant we had a pretty crowded room for our first meet-and-greet. There was a buzz in the air – a general sense of expectation and belief in this radical interpretation of a classic text.
We catch up with Director Sam Pritchard about our latest production Pygmalion.