Miriam Margolyes in Dickens' Women
A review of a theatrical performance.
Published 12/18/2012 by Eric Scull
In a phone interview I recently conducted with Miriam Margolyes about her show, Dickens' Women, I confessed to her that - while surely I had heard of Charles Dickens - I had never read one of his books. My anxiety over admitting this fact dissipated shortly thereafter, when I drove the topic around to Harry Potter, and learned that Madam Margolyes had not read any of J.K. Rowling's books which I hold so dear. I like to think that (at least in my case) the future can change for the better. And it was in that spirit that I went to see Madam Maroglyes' "animated lecture" on Dickens at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.
As it turns out, Miriam Margolyes and co-writer Sonia Fraser have done their research. Not only has Madam Margolyes toured her show multiple times over the past 20 years at many exotic international locations (such as in Australia/New Zealand and throughout India), but the amount of literary analysis she expounds in the two-hour performance is equally as astounding as her portrayals of women of all ages (and even some men) from Dickens' work. Her knowledge of Dickens' personal history is at show, but is never show-offy. I felt guided by her, very matter-of-factly at times but with great sympathy at others, into reaching conclusions that bring to light some of the inner-workings of Dickens' mind.
Furthermore, her portrayals of the characters bring forth their great humanity, which of course exists through Dickens' writing them. But in the way that Dickens' writing reflects back on his personal and interior thoughts, which in turn are brought about by his life experiences, I felt essentially as if a raw life force itself was at play - transmuted from Dickens into his work, from his work through the mind and then the mouthings and gestures of this vessel (Madam Margolyes) - broadcast to an audience who could sympathize or laugh out loud at the predicaments and sensitivities that each character held themselves to.
In short, Dickens' characters, his women, are often literary representations of the real women he was closest to (or furthest from) - and his emotions that he felt towards them, from love all the way to disgust, regret and dejection - are from the page, brought to life for the purposes of entertainment and commentary in this show. I'm thrilled to have seen this woman make clear just how real a fictional character can be.
Miriam Margolyes will be heading six performances of Dickens' Women, her one-woman show, in Chicago, Illinois from December 18th to 22nd, 2012. The performances will be held at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. For tickets, visit the web site.
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