by Amir Reza Koohestani and Mahin Sadri after the comedy by George Bernard Shaw
You are how you speak. Professor of Phonetics Higgins makes a bet with his friend Pickering that he can turn the energetic Eliza Doolittle, who sells flowers in the street to make ends meet and speaks the broadest dialect, into an upper-class lady with immaculate articulation. Eliza proves to be a disciplined and talented pupil who manages to pass the test of entering high society. Higgins attributes this success to his own genius and automatically lays claim to her. He fails to notice that his teaching has helped Eliza to become a self-aware and thoughtful woman who is not only capable of making her own decisions but of acting on them too.
George Bernard Shaw created his most famous female character in his adapatation of Ovid’s myth of Pygmalion – which is also an important motif in Shakespeare’s «Winter’s Tale». Even if she is the heroine of a comedy that is subtitled «A Romance», she also represents the political ideals of the author, who as a committed socialist campaigned for female emancipation and general suffrage.
After Shaw’s death, his play would become world famous as a result of its musical adaptation, «My Fair Lady», that focusses less sharply on the issues of sexual and class equality. As in «Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy», «Prima Facie» and «The Copenhagen Trilogy», «Pygmalion» is a story of the liberation of women in a male-dominated society.
The Iranian director Amir Reza Koohestani has been highly regarded in Europe for several years for his subtly thought-out rewritings of familiar sources. Together with the Iranian dramatist Mahin Sadri he challenges Shaw’s comedy, which was first performed in 1913 at the Vienna Burgtheater, in the light of contemporary discourse on classism.
«Eliza is a woman from the working class who does not belong anywhere: she belongs neither to her father, who is a drunk with no interest in her, nor to the Professor, who uses her for the sake of his own vanity. Her struggle to define her own self, her own identity is the core of our approach to Shaw’s play.» Amir Reza Koohestani and Mahin Sadri