I ONCE met a phonetics expert who told me where I was born to within a couple of miles.

I was suitably impressed and wrote to her saying she was 'another Professor Higgins'.

"Oh, it's far more serious work than that", she replied.

I remembered this brief encounter at the opening of the electrifying Headlong, Nuffield and West Yorkshire joint production of Pygmalion, here in Scouseland at the Playhouse until Saturday.

Director Sam Pritchard (one of 18 listed 'creatives' in the excellent programme notes - along with the writer Bernard Shaw) clearly had fun working with the innovative eight-strong cast Sam.

Designer Alex Lowe has re-tuned and re-booted the story of the voice-expert who is egged on - in a gentlemans' wager - to turn a street flower-seller (here a Northerner) into a lady who can eventually mingle with top-notch society at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party.

There is a lot to pack in during a performance lasting under two hours, but it is well-paced using sound and vision to great effect.

The accent is on class as Professor Higgins (Alex Beckett), in his state-of-the-art studio in well-off Wimpole Street, guides feisty Eliza Doolittle (Natalie Gavin) into a social rose.

There are some very funny scenes from street-wise Arthur Doolittle, played by Ian Burfield, and a perfectly-pitched interpretation of Colonel Pickerng by softly-spoken Raphael Sowole.

The use of film and on-screen sub-titles is quite masterful.

This is not a traditional Pygmalion written in 1913 or a stage adaptation of the 1964 film My Fair Lady even though there is a smashing lip-sync version of Wouldn't It Be Loverly?

I never envisaged seeing Shaw's work being treated this way, but I was happily surprised at such a quirky, imaginative, relevant and respectful play.


It is a production to shout about.

Speaks volumes - Four stars. 

It is at the Playhouse until Saturday.

Tickets from the box office on 0151 709 4776.