August ,23 2015
The 2015 Shaw Festival

shaw1Every year Niagara-on-the-Lake holds the annual Shaw Festival. What is the Shaw Festival you may ask? It's a theatrical festival spanning April to October and features plays and musicals often written by George Bernard Shaw (who the festival is named after) and his fellow playwright contemporaries. After hearing and seeing this festival begin and conclude for many years, this was finally the year we decided to take part. I'm surprised it took me this long considering I'm such a theatre enthusiast! With that decision made, next came the hard part: choosing a performance. With over 9 different plays being performed, it came down to research. Which plays are you most interested in seeing? Which ones are available on which days? Have you seen any other renditions of any of the offered plays before? It becomes a process that I love every time! After narrowing it down to a few favourites, Pygmalion ended up being our choice. A good pick I may add! shaw2Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw is about a linguistics professor named Henry Higgins who makes a bet that he can pass off a low spoken Cockney girl named Eliza Doolittle as a duchess at  a high society party by changing her manner of speech, attitude, dress, etc. You might know the popular adaptation of Pygmalion as a musical/film called My Fair Lady starring the lovely Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrington. Either way, considering the play touched upon Edwardian English social status, my history nerd was ready and rearing to go. The directors and set designers had decided that even though they were going to use the original script for Pygmalion, the time period needed an update for their staging. Before discovering there would be no changes to the script, I was concerned the play would feel disjointed with 2000s slang and would fail to capture the spirit of the original production. I love to be proven wrong in theatre. The updates were seamless still touching upon class struggle and female rights issues which are increasingly relevant today. shaw3The most noticeable enhancement was the use of technology. Henry's study was complete with the latest linguistics recording technology (who knew I would see my other passion emerge too!) which was used comically and flawlessly during set changes. Notably, the set changes featured a variety of different clips such as a BBC news spot about the Great British class calculator and snippets from BBC radio featuring Monty Python alum John Cleese. Although, my favourite would have to be the set change when Henry's mother's models staged a fashion show, accompanied by Sam Smith's amazingly well chosen song "La La La", on the foreground of the stage as the final props were being brought out for the finale. A little fun fact about Pygmalion is that the actual ending of the play is often changed in Hollywood renditions to have *spoiler alert* Eliza and Henry fall in love. However, this was not Shaw's original intention. In fact, he fought tirelessly against any changes to his platonic character relationships right up until his death. The Shaw Festival production featured the true ending Shaw envisioned and I was happier for it in the end. From start to finish, the actors were brilliant and the performance is one I will be remembering for years to come. If you ever get a chance to visit the Shaw Festival you will not be disappointed. I anxiously await the opportunity to return. Happy Sunday! xo Novellette

2 thoughts on “The 2015 Shaw Festival

  1. I love Pygmalion, the play and bar(one of the best bars in Dublin is also named after Shaw’s masterpiece)! Amazing to hear of a Shaw festival, I will definitely check it out if I am lucky enough to be in your neck of the woods!

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