Star of stage and screen David Burton’s friendship with Groundlings Theatre’s artistic director Richard Stride goes back many years.
But the Portsmouth theatre’s production of My Fair Lady is the first time the pair have shared any scenes together.
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a ‘proper lady.’
‘I’ve known Richard for quite some time,’ says David. ‘I think it was 2005, when Richard was first putting out professional open air tours with various productions. I was invited to audition – which is when we first met. He directed me in the musical farce A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and we also appeared in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing – but I never had any actual scenes with him in that production.
‘Things will be very different for both of us this time as we have a great number of scenes together and I'm looking forward to the on-stage banter between the two characters.’
Richard takes on the role of Professor Higgins while David plays his sidekick Colonel Pickering. The musical was adapted into a hit film in 1964 starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, scooping up eight Oscars.
‘I have seen the film, some time ago, but I purposely haven’t watched it just lately because I didn’t want to be influenced by it and I wanted to build my own character. I remember bits of the film, but I wanted to start this from a completely new standpoint. There are things that are different, and I try to being some extra comic touches to it as well.’
David also occupies a curious place in the folklore of one of TV’s biggest shows – Dr Who. He shot an unscreened pilot in the early 1990s for a potential revival of the show after it was axed in 1989. At the time The BBC had put the show out to several independent production companies.
‘I don’t put it on my CV, but it’s one of those things. I was booked to do one of those, unbeknown to me there were three other companies told by the BBC, “Great, you go ahead,” one was with Brian Blessed as the Doctor.’ But after three months of shooting, the BBC pulled the plug. ‘I don’t make too much of it, it’s just one of those things. It had a fair bit of interest at the time and I’ve had some interest from Dr Who fanatics over the years. They can be quite obsessive and want to know absolutely everything, but I can’t really tell them much.’
And for his next role? David’s returning to sci-fias a scientist in the BBC’s forthcoming blockbuster adaptation of HG Wells’ War of The Worlds.
MY FAIR LADY
Groundlings Theatre, Portsea