Well known and multi-awarded British character actress, Miriam Margolyes is in her element performing her fascinating and engaging one woman show, Dickens’ Women. At 62, she has an O.B.E. and slew of stage and film credits, most recently playing Professor Sprout in Harry Potter.
Dickens’ Women, written by Miriam Margolyes and Sonia Fraser and directed by Sonia Fraser, explores the women in both Dickens’ personal life and his literature to deliver an insightful assessment of his character.
Margolyes is a performer of considerable wit, charm and skill and her physical and vocal expressiveness is faultless. While she celebrates both Dickens’ genius and insight, she has no qualms about highlighting the misogyny that infected both his life and literature. This objectivity and balance makes it a very modern reading of Dickens’ work. As Margolyes comments, if she hadn’t been laughing so hard at the material she was researching, she would have been furious.
Shifting between character sketches and details about Dickens’ life, Margolyes exposes his life-long, though unsuccessful, penchant for 17 year old girls as well as his contempt for women who had passed a certain age.
Margolyes is not afraid to ridicule him for it, regaling the audience with countless references in Dickens’ work in which he idealises the petite perfection of his 17 year old characters and supplies a similar number of examples of contemptuous, withered, washed up women characters over thirty years old.
In real life his view of women had devastating effects upon his family, culminating in Dickens cruelly banishing his wife, Catherine.
Opening with the first of many grotesque female characters, Margolyes sparkles as the unctuous, self aggrandising and ever-pickled Mrs Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, indifferently attending to laying out the corpses. Margolyes’ voice and body are so expressive, it is wonderful to watch her. Through 23 characters, there are many highlights in which Margolyes displays her prodigious versatility and aptitude for characterisation.
According to Margolyes, the most reviled member of female society in Dickens’ world view were spinsters. Margolyes gives poignant and compelling renditions of both Miss Haversham from Great Expectations and the lesbian character, Miss Wade from Little Dorrit. While very different characters, Margolyes perfectly conveys their shared isolation and bitterness.
Mostly, however, the Dickens’ characters are hilarious – wonderfully written and objects of pure satire. Margolyes delivers the exquisitely salacious comic scene from Oliver Twist between the pompous Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney.
The show closes with a low key and melancholic speech by Miss Flyte from Bleak House who is marking time keeping birds while waiting in futile hope for the outcome of a law suit. It marked a change of tone from the rest of the show and, as the final comment, gave the audience an interesting idea to leave with – that, like Miss Flyte, Dickens’ futile obsession ultimately, left him thwarted and lonely.
Andrew McKinnon presents
By Miriam Margolyes and Sonia Fraser
Venue: Sydney Theatre | Walsh Bay
Tuesday October 16 8pm
Wednesday October 17 1pm
Thursday October 18 8pm
Friday October 19 8pm
Saturday October 20 2pm
Saturday October 20 8pm
Tickets: $69 - $29
Bookings: (02) 9250 1999