My Fairfield Lady is the version of Pygmalion the world didn’t know it needed: a cross between Bernard Shaw’s skewering of middle-class morality and the Lern Yerself Scouse handbook.
Lizzie Ripon (Jessica Dyas) and her fancy florists are too posh for potential investor our’Higson (Danny O’Brien). To win over his mum and secure her cash, she needs to convince his family she’s a good Liverpool girl. With the help of Scouse angel Steph (Helen Carter), some stilettos and emergency Botox, she undergoes a limited transformation.
Like Lizzie’s Scouse makeover, the production has a touch of sparkly class. Olivia du Monceau’s design is a slick combination of light boxes and Liverpool glamour.
But though the wigs are as high, the stakes are low. Writer Kevin Fearon’s brilliant premise is weakened by a messy plot and Chris Mellor’s direction is unfocused. Having spent most of Act I building up to Lizzie’s great illusion, her transformation is almost immediately rendered inconsequential.
While there are plenty of laughs to be had – Carter and Dyas make comedy gold from a scene in which they explore Liverpool phonetics using the Merseyline timetable (“it’s Omskkkkkirk”) – the storylines featuring dementia and cancer lack nuance. There is heart in Michael Starke and Julie Glover’s performances as the parents, but little sincerity. The most tender and truthful moment comes care of Carter’s scene-stealing turn with a chocolate fountain.
Though she might never get the hang of the accent, Dyas becomes a much more likeable posho as she absorbs some true Scouse warmth and humour. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the writing.