What is Henry Higgins’ profession which he undertakes with such virtuosity? He identifies where people in society belong from the way they speak and even the street where they were born.
Take this precision in interpreting context and meaning from sound and sever it and you have the starting place for Meine faire Dame. The piece opens in the anonymous setting of a language centre with individual booths and headphones. A group of adult students turn up to repeat phrases in a foreign language – in this case, English. Struggling with tongue-twisters and their often peculier meanings produces a range of comic and unexpected exchanges between class and teacher. From this premise launch a hundred flights of fancy with comic and surreal outcomes. Two students suddenly get up and start singing Silent Night. Completely robbed of its choir-boy innocence it becomes a half-baked party piece or unwilling audition, for what, we don’t know. It’s clear from the vital clues given by body language that the woman is a bit fed up with the whole thing whilst the man fancies himself as a bit of a dancer and possibly, her. It is very funny.
This piece has a strongly improvisatory feel and does not have an obvious narrative line. There is a definite flow of ideas surrounding our interpretation of language and sound (piano, electronic organ and wonderful singing with only a few songs from My Fair Lady). Can we perfect our meaning? Can we ever be perfectly understood? Higgins’ project, to re-position Eliza from the bottom to the top of society, superficially succeeds. But My Fair Lady is about perfectibility. Can a human being actually be perfected? Can men and women ever be perfected to a state of mutual compatibility? In Meine faire Dame the presence of Frankenstein at the electric organ tells us that we cannot be optimistic in these goals. In the few intermittent scenes involving Eliza and Higgins we see an irreversible breakdown in their relationship as it travels into old age. The final scene of the show is a dialogue between two older people, whose short-term memory is gone. They are joined by the other performers with shaking heads and palsied limbs unable to communicate further. The words have become ineffective because the context is immediately forgotten. A late Schubert piano sonata is their accompaniment
Review by Looby Loo
This show has divided critics and audiences and, when I say that, I mean it has been slated but I was favourably disposed to it. I thought it was a funny, incredibly well-acted production and the surrealism was handled very well. I can understand why others might have thought it slow, but although patience will never be one of my virtues, when the lights go down I manage it easily. There is a slow crescendo in this production but it is not about fireworks, more about cleverly crafted and well thought-out vignettes. I can’t even pretend to know what the overall themes were about or could easily point to the inspirations but sometimes I don’t think it’s necessary and too much can be read into pieces like this.
Audience wriggling: plenty towards the end
General Spot: Girls wearing shirts, t-shirts and dresses with animal heads on
Venue: 30 mins from Edinburgh centre which can start racking up. Nice venue though.
Review by Goubba
This show was nothing that I expected! As soon as Frankenstein came out to play on the organ I knew this was no normal My Fair Lady. Having little to do with the Lerner and Loewe stage production, it was completely bizarre and surreal, filled with plenty of musical arrangements including songs from various operas as well as showcasing much comical physical theatre in what proved to be a somewhat slow-moving and wacky piece.
The singing was fantastic throughout, with all the actors dealing with challenging harmonies exceptionally well. Not only this but the comedic acting was top notch, with some extra peculiar Swiss characters drawing much laughter from our section of the audience. I say our section, as it was clear that if ever there was a piece to split the audience, then this was it. Its lack of a clear narrative is probably the main reason for this polarisation of responses. However this suggests it was created through a workshop process. The only criticism that had any validity was the length of the show, with some of the musical arrangements dragging.
Overall, however, this was a very amusing and quite outrageous start to our Festival/Fringe. Let down by slow points, but brought up by the acting, singing and staging, I give this opening show a solid…