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Meine faire Dame – ein Sprachlabor

Lowland Hall, Royal Highland Centre
4 stars
Don’t be fooled by the first half of the title of Christoph Marthaler’s 
musical and physical romp for Theatre Basel. Marthaler’s audacious 
production may give a nod to Lerner and Loewe’s showbiz reinvention of 
Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, but it too is a Frankenstein’s monster of a 
mash-up, with sources as diverse as Ravel, George Michael and Bryan 
Adams to give its characters voice.

One shouldn’t look too hard for plot either among the 1970s retro 
geek-chic attired adult pupils of a language lab overseen by a dapper 
if increasingly drunk Henry Higgins type who oversees his charges with 
flamboyant disdain. As the shopping channel plays out on a flat-screen 
TV in the corner above a row of booths, words become increasingly 
meaningless as each pupil’s inner life blossoms through the 
international language of song.

At times this resembles the sort of old-time Christmas variety shows 
that the likes of Glee have lampooned so well. At others it’s as 
verbally dextrous as a Two Ronnies sketch, with Graham F Valentine’s 
Higgins figure and his aging Eliza trapped in endless exchanges from 
years ago which are now the only words keeping them together. 
Meanwhile, the rest of the group take time out from a religious therapy 
session to sing solitary arias to invisible audiences.

Such shenanigans are accompanied on Anna Viebrock’s ingeniously bright 
set that’s fit for a farce by a virtuoso pianist and an organist 
actually dressed as Frankenstein’s monster. Out of all of this, 
Marthaler has created a terribly witty melange that speaks volumes 
about how we communicate beyond words in the most playful manner 

The Herald, August 15th 2012



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