Sir Peter Hall is to return to the Old Vic, a landmark venue in the iconic director’s career, when he brings Pygmalion to London in May 2008. The transfer of the Peter Hall Company production also marks the return to the Old Vic of Tim-Pigott Smith, who was last seen at the Waterloo venue starring opposite Kevin Spacey – now the Old Vic’s Artistic Director – in 1998’s The Iceman Cometh. Also in the cast are Michelle Dockery, Tony Haygarth, Pamela Miles and Una Stubbs.
Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is the play on which musical My Fair Lady is based. It tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, the subject of a bet by Professor Henry Higgins who claims that he can turn the cockney flower girl into a duchess.
Hall’s long-running history with the Old Vic began in 1973, when he replaced Laurence Olivier as the Director of the National Theatre, then based at the Old Vic before its move to the South Bank. After leaving the National in 1988 he founded the Peter Hall Company, returning to the Old Vic in 1997 with a season including Waiting For Godot, Waste and The Seagull. The founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hall has had recent West End success with Hay Fever, Amy’s View (both 2006), and Whose Life Is It Anyway? (2005).
Speaking about his return, Hall said: “The Old Vic is a wonderful theatre which has figured large in my professional life – from seeing plays there in my youth, to the early days of my Directorship of the National Theatre; and then some 25 years later being in residence there with my own company.
“It therefore gives me enormous pleasure that Kevin Spacey has invited me to return to the Vic with my production of Pygmalion. This has, happily, enjoyed considerable success since its opening in Bath last summer and on an extended UK tour, and I cannot imagine a better home than the Old Vic for its London season.”
Pigott-Smith, who plays Higgins, has worked extensively across the whole realm of British theatre, building a long list of credits at the National, RSC and across the West End. Most recently he appeared in World War II farce See How They Run at the Duchess. On screen he has been seen in V For Vendetta, Gangs Of New York and Remains Of The Day, while he is probably still best known for his television performance in Jewel In The Crown.
Stubbs is another performer with a canon of work behind her, most recently appearing in Pillars Of The Community at the National and Don Carlos at the Gielgud. The actress, whose first major screen role came opposite Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday, has also been seen on television in series including Worzel Gummidge and Eastenders.
Dockery, who plays Eliza Doolittle, appeared alongside Stubbs in Pillars Of The Community, for which she won an Ian Charleson Award Commendation. Haygarth has previously worked with Hall on productions of The Tempest and Cymbeline, while Miles’s credits include Animal Farm (National) and Over Gardens Out (Royal Court).
Spacey commented: “We are honoured to welcome Pygmalion to the Old Vic with Peter Hall's delightful and entertaining new production of Shaw's great work. I cannot think of a production better suited to the Old Vic stage and we are excited about beginning a new relationship with the Theatre Royal Bath, and in particular, about welcoming Peter Hall back to the Old Vic.
“To end our fourth season by presenting such a beloved British classic is the perfect balance of a programme that has included two world premieres and a great American work by David Mamet.”
The world premieres Spacey refers to are Samuel Adamson’s adaptation of All About My Mother, which is currently playing, and Stephen Fry’s pantomime Cinderella, which opens on 9 December. These are followed in February by Speed-The-Plow. Pygmalion opens on 15 May (previews from 7 May) and runs until 2 August.