A push to challenge stereotypes

23 July 2019

The organisers of Burgmann College's production Pygmalion say there's a clear message about not being confined to how people see you and that's part of the play's appeal.

About 40 students from across the residential hall, involved in everything from playing leading roles through to designing the sets, have been working to fine-tune their performance ahead of opening night on 31 July.

The play's synopsis is around a young woman striving to be defined by more than just a horrible accent.

Created by George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion focuses on metaphors relating to feminism, classism and George himself. George had a thick accent making it difficult for him to be a playwright in Victorian England. He would often get rejected by people because they couldn't understand what he was saying.

"And he rose above that. So it's this idea of you not being confined by just how people see you and that you can do far more than that," says Pygmalion's director Claudia Harris.

"There's also an aspect that once you are given your autonomy, there is nothing to stop you from doing whatever you want."

Claudia, who is in her second year of Political Science, says she chose the play because she needed to find something that had a large cast and could fit a large production team.

"It was a show that my Dad gave me the script for a while back. He was in the show himself and really loved it. And I used to watch My Fair Lady when I was a kid and I really loved that musical," she says.

Georgia Yuncken, who is in her second year studying music and plays Mrs Higgins in the play has been involved in drama throughout her high school and now university life.

"When I moved here I was at UniLodge and I didn't really have the confidence to go and do stuff like this. When I transferred to Burgmann, I've had more confidence. So basically I'm overloading myself as much as I can to make up for lost time," Georgia says.

"Something like Pygmalion is just fun because you're doing it all with friends. It can make it a little more difficult when you're doing something with theatre performance where it's more raw and emotional.

"But it's been a really good experience because you're making it with friends and everyone gets involved, even people who aren't really arty types and haven't expressed any kind of interest in the past. It's just cool how people come together within a project in a hall in a college. It's nice."

Asked about what makes theatre an enticing thing to be involved in, Georgia says it's "an escape".

"The more dramatic or less realistic the character, the better, for me," she says.

Playing Mrs Higgins - a 50 year old woman in Victorian England - who is a comedic character in a time that Georgia has never experienced, and playing her as "slightly obnoxious and over the top" is just fun, Georgia says.

"Because I get to use my voice in a way that I can't every day and I have relationships with people on stage that I just completely overpower and that's empowering in itself, taking control in a scene."

Claudia says her goal from the start was to have as many people involved in the production as possible.

"You do have the expectation that you want to put on a good show and all that, but I think for college productions in particular, you don't have a massive involvement in productions and there's been a history of that," she says.

"This year my goal was I to get kids involved in theatre and for them to understand there is so much more involved in it than getting up on stage and acting."

Pygmalion will run from 31 July to 3 August at the Drama Theatre inside the Kambri Cultural Centre.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.trybooking.com/BDPVW