Last year's Word Festival at the Young Centre was a glorious celebration of Shakespeare and the Bible. This year, to honour the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth, the centre is offering a four-day feast to all lovers of... the word.
There are staged readings, live streamed readings (check it out here), some improv and - opening tonight - Dickens' Women, a one-woman, one pianist show that is a must see if you can still get a ticket.
Miriam Margolyes, who I first experienced playing her award-winning Flora Finching in Christine Edzard's excellent adaptation of Dickens' Little Dorrit
(1988), takes us on a journey through Dickens' life, his influences,
and how it all played out in a rich array of women characters.
Considered by many to be a chauvinist (and this is well supported by
some of the excerpts in the piece), he also managed to present
surprising characters, some of which were very two dimensional, but many
of which were deeply human and flawed. I don't want to say too much
about this in detail, because part of the appeal of this excellently
crafted performance, is the delightful surprises that emerge. In fact,
there are more surprises than I expected, because, as Margolyes moved
smoothly from excerpt to story to excerpt, I felt I'd never read Dickens
before. The most successful voice actress that Britain has produced
(apart from her films, she's recorded a lot of audio books, documentary
voice overs and animated character voices), she is able to extract from
and illuminate a moment that is so exquisitely thought out, so
compassionately examined, that it left me breathless and entirely
engaged. Sympathetic piano accompaniment was provided with modesty
and charm by Peter Tiefenbach.
plays each evening until this coming Saturday night. Tomorrow (Thursday)
there is a talk back with Margolyes, but after tonight's performance
(and I suppose she'll do this for every other), she signed copies of her
book on this same topic, which is $20 including tax. After Saturday,
the show travels to Chicago for five performances, ending a 10-month
tour that will conclude Christmas Eve.
Another fine evening at the Young Theatre.