Dickens’ Women – A Review

Dickens’ Women – A Review


Charles Dickens lovers, run as fast as you can to catch Dickens’ Women, a tour-de-force one-woman performance by renowned British actress Miriam Margolyes, appearing this week only at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Theater Upstairs.


Best known for her roles as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series, The Nurse in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Mrs. Mingott in The Age of Innocence, her many appearances in the British sitcom Blackadder, and much, much moreMairiam Margolyes brings to life 23 of Dickens’ characters. Some are famous and iconic, others are lesser-known, but as the evening continues, we learn how almost every one offers a unique glimpse into Charles Dickens' real and difficult life.


Dickens’ Women is drawn from the writer’s novels and sketches, including his most popular, such as heartbreaking Mrs. Micawber from David Copperfield, a beautifully caricatured Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney from Oliver Twist, the grotesque Ms. Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, and the sad and vicious Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Dickens’ Women was developed by Miriam Margolyes and Sonia Fraser for the 1989 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It has since traveled worldwide, including London, Jerusalem, Santa Cruz, New York, Boston, Sydney, Auckland and all over India.


The characters Miriam Margolyes explores in Dickens’ Women are some of the most colorful and entertaining of Dickens’ characters; many of them are also identified with real people in the novelist’s life – some men, many women whom he loved, hated, lived with, and lost. Between the characters she portrays with her elastic face and variety of accents, Miriam Margolyes, who read English Literature at Cambridge, offers a different and somewhat critical perspective on the man himself as she connects the characters to his life. “He’s a surprising man,” she says. “Much crueler than people expect, so I hope the show will shock the audience and remove them from the comfort zone people likely expect from Dickens.”


Pianist Robert Deason plays Michael Haslam’s music on the very simple set of varied chairs and a reading stand copied from Dickens’ own.


With the Chicago presentation of Dickens’ Women, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre joins institutions and organizations from around the globe that have created programs, events and activities to commemorate the bicentennial of Dickens’ birth—Dickens 2012.


Through Saturday, December 22, at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Upstairs, Navy Pier. 800 E. Grand, Chicago.Tickets: $50-$60 at 312-595-5600. On-line at chicagoshakes.com

 Photo credit: Prudence Upton

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