PYGMALION REVIEW – by JULIAN WILDE Three outstanding performances are at the heart of Fylde Coast Players’ production of George Bernard Shaw’s cutting portrait of British social class and morality, written 110 years ago. The fabled 1964 film musical “My Fair Lady” which was inspired by Pygmalion - and contained catchy songs and stellar performances from Stanley Holloway, Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison – is steadily pushed from our minds by Andy Cooke, Heather Cartmell and Philip Allan. The trio ensure that our focus remains on the issues of middle-class morality central to this play, particularly in some biting monologues and dialogues in the second half. The present buzz-word “toxic masculinity”, unknown to theatre goers in 1913, is an apt description of Shaw’s perceptively written character Henry Higgins, Professor of Phonetics. Andy Cooke captures the essence of a sometimes horrid man superbly with voice, posture and telling use of the eye-brows. Emily Cartmell produces a quality performance as Eliza Doolittle whom Higgins, for a wager, believes he can transform into a lady by teaching her to “speak proper”. Cartmell’s Cockney accent, rapid speech, appearance and persona are wonderfully changed as she embarks on a series of slow mannered “how do you dos”. The audience simply gasp at a bravura instantaneous change. An effervescent Philip Allan commands the stage as Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle – the dustman through whom Shaw pursues the issue of social class. The audience’s spontaneous applause after one of his declarations, says it all. Kath Greenwood and Rosemary Roe (Higgins’ housekeeper and mother) provide a fine example of how to enunciate every syllable at the right pace. Director Mandy Laird-Hall rightly keeps the eight scenes of a lengthy play moving smartly, assisted by an ingenious folding and atmospheric period set. Some will be disappointed, however, by no on-stage tutoring scene of Higgins tutoring Eliza on her vowels. Shaw pleasingly avoids a romantically happy ending between Higgins and Eliza. They go their own way, one uncomprehendingly self-absorbed, the other a reborn, independent and strong-minded woman.