Theatre: Pygmalion Albery Theatre, London Kiss Me Kate Regent's Park, London

"I've grown accustomed to her face," sings Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, the musical version of Pygmalion. With three changes of director and Emily Lloyd's replacement, as Eliza, by a newcomer straight from drama school, simply recognising each other must be counted an achievement for the cast of this latest staging of the original Shaw play. Now steered into the West End by farceur Ray Cooney, the show is not as bad as you might expect and not as good as you have a right to expect. It's the kind of production for which the word "serviceable" might have been invented.

Playing a flower girl elevated from gutter to high society via phonetic engineering, does the unknown Carli Norris make an equivalent leap from obscurity to stardom? Well, it's not so much a case of "By George, she's got it!" as "By George, she may well have it!" She certainly has terrific natural presence and poise and there's an impish quality about her prettiness that is unmistakably appealing. But I don't think she has been well served either by the direction or the other leading players.

Wearing a curly quiff that announces "wig" with a distinctness that would please any phonetician, Roy Marsden's Higgins badly overdoes the overgrown- schoolboy-with-mother-complex aspect of the professor. He's so agressively sexless with his spoilt-infant body language and boffinish gurgles that there's nothing for Ms Norris to connect with. What is attractive about this man's questing vitality gets mislaid.

Occasionally, in Ms Norris's performance, less would be more. In the famous tea-party scene where Eliza launches into an immaculately enunciated account of how her gin-soaked aunt was "done in", the actress's manner has the hilarious robot stiffness of some battery-operated machine.

Christopher Woods's depressing set of pillars and metal walkways has, with appropriate projections, to pass for Covent Garden, Higgins's study and a London embassy where a feebly staged dance is executed. There are fine supporting performances from a splendidly pursed and disapproving Marcia Warren as Higgins's housekeeper and from Michael Elphick who, as Doolittle, has the knobbly featured canniness of a cockney WC Fields. (Fortuitously elevated from dustman's outfit to morning dress, he projects the bemusement of a displaced lottery winner.) But, as with all merely respectable productions of Pygmalion, you find yourself responding to it as though it were My Fair Lady manque and pining for the Lerner-Loewe songs.

Another musical spin-off that is arguably better than its source is Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, where the off-stage bickerings of two formerly married, tempermental American thesps are paralleled by their on-stage turmoil in a revival of The Taming of the Shrew. The opening night of Ian Talbot's delightful staging was rained off - "Another Op'nin', Another Shower?" - but I caught up with it in the balmiest of conditions a few nights later. It's by no means a flawless production but it captures just the right witty, showbizzy spirit.

What Andrew C Wadsworth lacks in fullness of voice and charisma in the Fred Graham/Petruchio role he makes up for in charm and self-mocking inventiveness. As his sparring partner, Louise Gold is a comically commanding figure - outdoing herself in campy, gorge-rising revulsion and contentious, drop- dead postures on each successive verse of "I Hate Men". This is one of the most brilliant Broadway scores ever written and it is delivered here by performers who really know how to pace the song.

For my money, though, Issy Van Randwyck turns Lois Lane into too cartoonie a gaping dumb-blonde sexpot. In a number like the hilarious "Always True to You in My Fashion", you should be able to hear the shifts between butter- wouldn't-melt mock innocence and on-the-make raunch in the voice but Ms Van Randwyck has to rely unduly on physical gesture.

The cast is full of attractively quirky performers - none more endearing than Gavin Muir and Rob Edwards as a pair of Runyon-esque gangsters who have a financial interest in the inset show remaining on. "It's entertaining, vivacious and calculated to please the discerning theatre-goer. You can quote me," reports one of them encouragingly. The same goes for this Kiss Me Kate. They can quote me.

`Pygmalion' at the Albery Theatre, London WC2 to 4 Oct (0171-369 1730); `Kiss Me Kate' at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London NW1, to 14 Aug (0171-486 2431)

Paul Taylor

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?