Review: My Fair Lady

Carly Bawden as Eliza Doolittle.  Photo: Johan Persson
Carly Bawden as Eliza Doolittle. Photo: Johan Persson
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Sheffield Crucible

It’s rare you get to see the moment a star is born. Michael Fassbender does a couple of films – suddenly he’s everywhere. Andrew Garfield gets a bit part in Doctor Who – within a couple of years he’s pulling on Spider-Man’s suit – but we usually see the fulfilment of the star rather than the moment of birth.

The audience of Sheffield Crucible got to see a star turn supernova this week when Carly Bawden, barely three years out of drama school, stole the show so completely that theatre staff might want to check her locker. Eliza Doolittle is a gift of a part, but you still need something special to be able to make the best of the present that Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, by way of George Bernard Shaw, provided.

That something special, whatever it is – a talentless TV show for people who desire ‘fame’ calls it the X Factor – Bawden has it in spades. What was interesting was that it happened despite the circumstances – this was supposed to be a stage on which Dominic West would triumph. The Sheffield-born star of The Wire and The Hour came to the Crucible to play Iago two years ago and has returned to play a very funny Professor Henry Higgins. He brings a power, masculinity and surprisingly impressive grasp of comedy to the role of the professor of phonetics, but his tripping over lines a number of times on opening night might well have been caused by his surprise at seeing Bawden up close owning the stage against much more experienced actors.

The tale of a flower girl taught to be ‘propa’ is a wonderful story and this magnificent cast, with director Daniel Evans, have created a piece of Christmas magic.

To January 26.