Ahem.... theatre review. Good grief, another opinion... but really we were fortunate enough last night to see Miriam Margolyes in Dickens' Women at Her Majesty's Theatre in Ballarat and just have to say SOMETHING about it.
First up - I have never been a fan of Dickens (yes I know, shocking / etc), but was greatly intrigued by the premise of this show, as well as being particularly pleased to attend with friends of ours who most assuredly are. I always suspected my lack of enthusiasm was a direct result of some pretty dire and very dreary teaching, and was particularly intrigued by the manner in which Margolyes bought out considerably more of the humour than any of my teachers ever managed to impart.
Her performance was, in short, awe inspiring. Her deft movement from character to character, the combination of reading, of recitation of parts of the books, the character studies working from the text of the books was utterly astounding, and the information imparted by way of introduction to each piece really quite illuminating. I was also very interested in the general audience reaction to snippets of his personal life, and attitude, which was received with some surprise in a lot of quarters.
Now normally, when reviewing a book, I'm acutely aware that it's not about the author, it is about the book, but in this case, some of his personal characteristics did seem to gell with my objections to the books. Whenever returning to Dickens' books (to try to work out why I'm one of the few that don't "get" them), I've always been struck by what seemed to be a frequently mean, and somewhat vicious portrayal of many of the women in his books. There's also something vaguely "creepy" about the idealisation of young girls (SEVENTEEN! as Margolyes carefully illustrates). Part of the strength of this piece was the acknowledgement of the man, as well as the man's work. The observations of who the various characters may have been based on illuminating, the background of their involvement in his life illustrative.
But objections to the subject matter aside, I was mesmerised by Margolyes. Her performance was outstanding, the styling of the piece fantastic. Part information, part entertainment, DICKENS' WOMEN was ... delightful, challenging, extremely moving at points, thought-provoking, and wonder of wonders, enough to make me want to go back and try some of those books again. Maybe with the voice of Margolyes in my head, this time, they might just work.