We chat to renowned character actress Miriam Margolyes – who has appeared in everything from Oliver Twist to Harry Potter – about her new show, The Importance of Being Miriam.
What was your favourite role ever? Be honest, was it the canine ‘mother’ in Babe?
As all actresses will tell you, there’s no such thing as a ‘favourite’ role. But among my joyous jobs was Dickens’ Women, in which I played 23 different parts, including Miss Havisham and Mr. Bumble, co-written by me and the wonderful Sonia Fraser. And all of these have been seen in Australia, which has given me a burst of creativity at 73!
You have a special affinity for Dickens. Tell us, what’s the attraction?
I think there’s a part of me that enjoys excess – as there was in him. But also
I relish his moral force, his compassion, his sense of fun and grotesquerie, the amazing vigour of his prose, the fizz and bite of the more than 2000 characters he created, his passion for life and friendship. Across the gap of time, his engine of a personality rips into me and I am constantly delighted, repelled and fascinated by the man and his work.
What exactly is the importance of being Miriam, Miriam?
I truthfully have no idea; it’s a whimsical, cheeky title thought up by my producer, and everyone but me likes it and laughs. John Martin, the gifted and handsome pianist is with me onstage, hopefully balancing my nonsense with real flair. It will be an honest portrait of me and my loves and literary pleasures. I’m going to sing, tell dirty jokes, share parts of my life (and my sex life) and my politics, so if you don’t like me, don’t come!
Heath Ledger Theatre, Apr 7-11.
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