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"When she appears as herself,
Margolyes sparkles with intelligence
and enthusiasm... when she inhabits
his characters, you'd swear they
lived and breathed in front of you."
- THE AGE
Monday November 21, 2011
Renowned for her distinctive voice, award-winning actress Miriam
Margolyes is bringing her talent and passion to the Canberra stage.
Following sold out performances in 2007, Margolyes is returning to
Australia with her one-woman show Dickens' Women.
Based on the life and many characters of Charles Dickens, Dickens' Women
showcases Margolyes' extraordinary talents.
As well as being a renowned English actress, Margolyes is also a proficient
voice artist. She has worked in theatre, film and television.
In the 1980s, she made appearances in Blackadder opposite Rowan Atkinson
and received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Flora Finching in the 1988
movie Little Dorrit, based on Dickens' book.
Her role as Mrs Mingott in Martin Scorsese's The Age Of Innocence saw her
win a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress in 1993.
Her unique voice got plenty of attention and she lent her voice to characters in
Babe and James and the Giant Peach. She is also often recognised for her role
as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series.
Despite her passion for film and television, Margolyes has been entranced by
the work of Dickens since she first read Oliver Twist at age 11 years.
In fact her love for Dickens led her to appear in the mini-series Oliver Twist
(1985) and Dickens (2002).
"I've always wanted to do a show about Charles Dickens, ever since I studied
him at Cambridge," Margolyes said.
"For years, I battled with the attempt, not knowing how to structure the show.
"Finally, Sonia Fraser and I went to [theatre director] Frank Dunlop at the
Edinburgh Festival and begged him to commission us to write it.
"He did. The show sold out and never stopped."
Margolyes has taken the performance on tour worldwide since it was first
performed in 1989 and it has stood the test of time.
Dickens' Women brings to life 23 of Dickens' most colourful characters. It is
also a powerful and, at times, hilarious expose of his writing and the women in
his life who found themselves immortalised in his books.
Born in 1812, creative writing was Dickens' passion and in 1833 he had
his first story published. He began working as a novelist and his early works
included Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and David Copperfield.
Members of Dickens' family began to appear in his works as different
characters, including his father, who was the original of Mr Micawber in David
Copperfield and his mother as Mrs Nickleby.
With so many different and complex characters, Margolyes said it was hard to
choose which to include in the production.
"It was the hardest thing to make a final choice, but the root of the choice
was finding the women in Dickens' life that he used as the bases for some
characters," she said.
"I don't use anything but Dickens' words and my own interpretation. No
changes of costume or scenery."
Towards the end of his life, Dickens wrote famous works such as Little Dorrit,
A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. But producing novels of such a
high standard at such a volume took its toll on the author, whose health began
After a number of readings in 1869 he collapsed from what was believed to be
a mild stroke.
Dickens' final public readings took place in London in 1870 and soon
after he suffered a fatal stoke.
While he left behind an impressive legacy, Margolyes said some
people might be shocked by certain aspects of his life.
"They will be surprised at some aspects of Dickens - cruelty,
adultery, callousness - and also they will laugh a great deal
and cry a little," she said.
"My reaction to Dickens is at the heart of the show."
Unlike Margolyes' time on film and television, her show has
her performing alone on stage and she admits it can be hard.
"It's lonelier and harder but extremely satisfying," she said.
"But I am lucky enough to have a fine pianist, John Martin,
with me; he's a great companion, on and off stage and I need that
presence during the show."
The 2012 tour coincides with worldwide celebrations of 200
years of Charles Dickens.
"I feel a deep satisfaction, because it seems my passion is being
shared by millions all over the world," Margolyes said.
Dickens' Women is showing at the Canberra Theatre Centre
from February 24 to 25, 2012.
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