You’ve started the working week with a bang, you haven’t quite reached “hump day”, and the weekend is a thousand miles away. As I’ve noted previously, it’s the kind of night you might go out for dinner on an “internet date”, the kind of date where you’re not really serious about the person yet, and so you’re not willing to give up an important night like a Friday or a Saturday.
It’s the kind of night where you might play sport with some old friends, as I noticed was the case for a group of people at the gym on Cumberland Street in The Rocks as I walked to Sydney Theatre for the opening night of Dicken’s Women, featuring Miriam Margolyes.
I quite admire her as an actress. Although I found her performance in “Way Of The World” a few years ago at the Sydney Opera House a little challenging – the language was very difficult – I thought she was terrific as the mother, Peg in The Life & Death Of Peter Sellers. I also thought she was terrific recently when interviewed by Andrew Denton on Enough Rope. I love the way she combines formality and informality, both when she is interviewed and in her live performances. You get the feeling from watching her that she’s on the side of the audience if you know what I mean.
It’s a duality that is reflected in her love of Charles Dickens which was the focus of tonight’s play. At one point, she describes how in preparing for the performance she was appalled at the chauvinism displayed by Dickens both in his life and work, but at the same time could marvel at the tender characterisation he often achieved. This comment followed her portrayal of a character from Dickens’ work I’d never encountered before, Miss Wade from Little Dorrit, who was obviously a lesbian in Victorian England, with all of the associated baggage.
As a loud proud lesbian herself, the emotion that Miriam put into the portrayal tonight was palpable. As she recounted a tale or regret and tormented love, I thought to myself, “I didn’t know Dickens wrote about lesbians”. Wasn’t he, as Miriam described earlier in the night, ironically, as the jolly man who invented Christmas?
Clearly not, as tonight’s play revealed. Having seen tonight’s play, I’m left with the feeling Dickens obviously both loved and loathed women. The show relates how many of the characters in Dickens work were based on the women in his own life. His writings were shown to demonstrate an intimate understanding of the many layers of humanity. The show also relates how awful he was to many of the women in his own life, especially his wife, Catherine, who was all but abandoned in favour of two of her sisters.
At the centre of tonight’s play was the idea that Dickens was a flawed character. Raised as part of the lower-middle-class – as Miriam described, the worst of all classes – his family was imprisoned at an early age. With a great sense of self-purpose, Dickens was able to rise to become one of the best known people of his time. But his great weakness, according to tonight’s play, was his attitude towards women. He both loved and loathed them. He was attracted to them, and understood their characters in intimate detail, but did not regard them in the way Miriam (and all of us today) thought they should be regarded.
Although at times in the first half I was a little bored, I thought the second half really hummed. Miriam is a truly tremendous actress, for whom I have even greater respect after tonight’s show.
Aside from that, the last two days have just been work, work, work. I had an early start yesterday and a late finish today. The rest of the week remains busy, with a dinner at Bentley Bar on Thursday night and the Andrew Olle Media Lecture on Friday, both of which will burn a hole in my pocket. I’m also keen to make a brief appearance at the 69th Podcast Party for Bran, a weekly podcast I listen to and enjoy. Although it’s the same night as Olle, I’m going to pop along to buy Roulla, Angus and Nathan a beer, because I really enjoy their work.
No plans for the weekend yet, aside from the Danks Street Festival which is always, regularly, lots of fun.
The only other bit of excitement from the last few days to report is finding photos of myself, Pat and Sam on the interweb at the recent Robyn Concert. Look for the bald bloke in photographs one, three and five. And of course, doing some travel planning for next year. I’d welcome your input on my travel page if you have thoughts about what I should do when visiting New York, Paris and Stockholm next year. As I haven’t been to any of these cities before, I’d welcome any ideas you have.
Anyway, must go as Jake Gyllenhall is on Letterman.
PS. I’m loving the proper cast recording of Priscilla The Musical.