Dickens Women at The Tobacco Factory 9/10
MIRIAM Margolyes has been performing on stage and screen for over 30 years, and if she has not become a household name, people certainly know her face.
Appearing on television in Blackadder and Doc Martin, while in the cinema, she won a BAFTA Award for her role in period drama Age of Innocence, but is perhaps best known today for her role as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films.
Margolyes first wrote and performed Dickens' Women at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the late Eighties, and has since toured the world with the show. As part of this year's celebrations for the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens, Margolyes has revived her one-woman show and embarked on a tour of the country, which brought her to the Tobacco Factory this week.
Dickens' Women is a curious mixture of dramatic readings from Dickens' work, biographical accounts of his life, and in-character monologues and scenes, concerned with both the author's relationship with the women in his life and the female characters he creates on the page.
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In one rather telling moment, Margolyes reads out a series of character descriptions of beautiful young women across a range of Dickens' work, and when strikingly similar details emerge, she informs the audience that it was Dickens' adoration of his sister-in-law and her premature death that influenced their creation.
What could be a lecture on Dickens, dry and stiff with facts, is actually a lively presentation of what makes the novelist's work so perennial.
It's also not a complete whitewash of his character – Margolyes details the terrible treatment he gave his wife, Catherine, in order to obtain a "respectable" separation from her in the public eye. Despite this, there's considerable warmth for his work, and Margolyes is superb at presenting it, taking on 23 roles during the show and bringing an intelligence and depth to all of them.
Dickens' Women is a brilliant show, and is not only a credit to the work of the author who inspired it, but the woman on stage who performs it.