Saturday, September 10, 2016

Shattering the Glass Slipper at My Fair Lady

Do I really want to take my 9 year old daughter to see a musical about human trafficking? That's what it boils down to. 

The lavish 60th Anniversary Production of My Fair Lady, directed by Dame Julie Andrews is stunning - the costumes are amazing, the sets like a pop-up story book, each more incredible than the last, the singing and choreography will knock your socks off! 

When Professor Henry Higgins takes Eliza Doolittle to the horse races at Ascot I'm blown away - the cast are all dressed in a black and white kaleidoscope of M.C. Esher-esque couture, topped off with a milliners fantasy of hats in all shapes and sizes. Instantly, I think of my daughter, the little girl who sits up in bed at night drawing ream after ream of fashion plates - Oh! I can't wait to bring her to see this fabulous show, I think!

But, from the minute I start thinking of Charlotte, the glass slipper bubble of Disney delight is shattered. How can I possibly bring her to see a musical which is, undeniably, about human trafficking? Whether or not Eliza Doolittle is a willing participant, the exchange of £5, the Victorian equivalent of a year's rent, has my feminist antenna erupting like a radio active Geiger counter. 

Poor Eliza, for all her bravado in 'Just You Wait', singing:
"When you yell you're going to drown, I'll get dressed and go to town!"
By the time she sings 'I Could Have Danced All Night' with that doe-eyed look on her face - she's doomed! She's gone and bloody fallen in love with Professor Henry Higgins, it's like watching Princess Leia fall in love with Jabba The Hutt!

Still, the romantic in me longs for the fairytale ending - surely the Professor will sweep her off her feet and carry her into the sunset? Love conquers all!

NO! What am I thinking?? My conscience backhand slaps these irrational thoughts and reprimands me sternly - how on earth can I wish this intelligent, hard-working, enterprising girl to end up with this spoilt, chauvinistic scoundrel? What sort of moral compass am I demonstrating for my daughter, pursuing such mawkish thought bubbles?

And what of Eliza's role models? The sponging alcoholic father who recommends giving her the strap if she doesn't do as she's told, the absent controlling step-mother? Poor Eliza, she wouldn't even have been able to cast a vote into a ballot box, let alone strike out alone, she was a woman living in a time with limited choices...

Yes, the production is stunning - all of it! - but most of all, the ending. 

I wonder if Dame Julie Andrews was just a teeny tiny bit tempted to change the ending? I wonder if she secretly contemplated a new millennial twist to the Pygmalion plot? 

But no, I doubt that crossed her mind, she is after all a Dame Commander of the British Empire, one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II BFFs. She is a battleship of established society, faithful to old guard and the stiff upper lipAs polished and poised as the remodelled Eliza Doolittle herself.

I've decided I can't wait to take my daughter to see My Fair Lady, and I'm going to take my son too, and then I'm going to sit down and have a jolly good discussion with them afterwards, perhaps over cucumber sandwiches and Twinings earl grey tea with lemon. There's a lot to talk about.


The 60th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady is playing at the Sydney Opera House until 5th November. Starring Alex Jennings, Anna O'Byrne, Reg Livermore, Robin Nevin, Tony Llwellyn-Jones & Mark Vincent.


I'd love to know, what production have you taken your children to see, or are looking forward to sharing with them?

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