Three of my first year students were supposed to offer a dramatised reading of Pygmalion’s Act IV. In it, after her successful impersonation of a lady at a posh party, Eliza quarrels bitterly with her teacher Higgins because she thinks he’s not considered in depth what’s to become of her once this odd experiment is over. I didn’t want the students to simply read, I aimed this time at a more properly theatrical performance, and, so I was carrying simple props, like a couple of plastic envelopes shaped as the slippers she throws at him at the start of the quarrel.
Now, the girl supposed to play Eliza never turned up, aghhhh, and, whether dismayed or inspired, I’m not sure, I volunteered to play the role. My, that was fun!! I got to throw the ‘slippers’ at the student playing Higgins and he had the pleasure of calling me names. I recommend this to any teacher, really!!! What amazing therapy!
Also, I think the point of the exercise was accomplished, indeed for my own benefit: we learned to see in the text what is usually missed in our fast, silent, private reading. And it turns out I myself had missed a key passage with Pickering’s comments on personal style, the very subject of my previous entry. This is what the student playing Pickering read, and I finally heard, when Higgins complains that the party was mortally boring and “The whole thing has been simple purgatory”:
PICKERING. You’ve never been broken in properly to the social routine. I rather enjoy dipping into it occasionally myself: it makes me feel young again. Anyhow, it was a great success: an immense success. I was quite frightened once or twice because Eliza was doing it so well. You see, lots of the real people can’t do it at all: they’re such fools that they think style comes by nature to people in their position; and so they never learn. There’s always something professional about doing a thing superlatively well. (my emphasis).
There you are!! Pickering, the party animal thirsting for glamour. He’s boasting that Eliza shone out almost professionally and I see here the pride of her other Pygmalion. Sorry, Shaw, I’d missed this but I’ll still insist that Pickering should be allowed to leave the closet…