Miriam Margolyes is one of those rare modern actors because she is a genuine chameleon.
Effortlessly hopping between the characters in Charles Dickens' writings -- mostly women -- she is an actor of great agility.
She always manages to leave a strong impact in whatever medium and in whatever sized role because of her superb grasp of nuance. It all begins with the voice and she is definitely the mistress of her instrument, gliding into myriad personalities.
Although Margolyes may be best known for her comic sense and endearing cuteness, she can also draw a tear. She is moving, indeed quite haunting, as Miss Havisham and declaring Miss Flite from Bleak House as Dickens' most tender portrait, she plays her full compassion and sensitivity.
But she is equally sensitive with the funnier portraits, celebrating the human condition with a Dickensian relish. She declares that she loves playing the fireside scene from Oliver Twist, switching from lecherous Mr Bumble to opportunistic Mrs Corney with building enthusiasm.
Her life-long love of literature and Charles Dickens is evident in her acting. She appreciates the words and carries them a step further into the visual world so vividly created by Dickens.
Aside from bringing the characters to life on stage, she also gives us a sense of Dickens as a complex and flawed man who, in knowing cruelty knew how to inflict it, particularly towards his wife, Catherine Hogarth, the mother to his 12 children.
This is theatre at its most enriching. It may not be a light and sound show, though John Martin plays wonderfully discreet mood piano, but it is theatre of words and imagination which is really at the heart of all great performance.
Posted : 3rd October 2007