Linda Marlowe’s solo performances have been one of the
great enterprises in our theatre of the past ten years, and her latest,
The World's Wife, based on a cycle of poems by the new laureate Carol Ann Duffy, is a brilliant summary of their virtues.
giving the comic lie to the manly heroes they served and screwed,
Marlowe’s women are sly, wicked, clever, beautiful, ecstatic
and scheming. And they are presented in a fluent, graceful gallery of
physical portraits using just a chair, a couple of scarves and much
hadn’t occurred to me before how Mrs Freud’s
hilarious litany of synonyms for the male member echoes a sketch of
Barry Humphries, and Marlowe’s latent Australian inflections
are put to good use elsewhere, too.
rolling, roaring Mrs Quasimodo is a delightful send-up of her longtime
colleague Steven Berkoff, while sexual and simian status is artfully
upturned when Mrs Kong holds her little ape man tamely in the palm of
the strutting Kray sisters re-launch a suffragist view of underworld
thuggery as startlingly as the voices of Salome, Delilah, Eurydice and
Penelope are re-cast to release them from their shades and question
their own imprisoning myths.
performance was so astonishing in Edinburgh last summer that it
slightly obscured the fact that the poems don’t have an
organic forward momentum; she supplied it. She still does, but her
director Di Sherlock has wisely toned down the aggressive side of the
performance to suit the smaller Trafalgar studio, with a small
sacrifice in theatricality.
remains, though, one of the great virtuosic displays on the London
stage, and Marlowe manages to combine the core of Duffy’s
blazing femininity with a beguiling, siren-style elegance and
begins by entering the dark wood of Little Red Cap’s
nightmare and ends by welcoming home Demeter’s daughter
Persephone, bare-footed and smiling, in the sunshine, simultaneously
moral and moving.
NOTE: The above review dates from January 2010 and this production's run at the Trafalgar Studios. At the Edinburgh
Fringe there will be performances of The World's Wife on 17 & 19 August 2010 at the Venue 150 at EICC, Edinburgh.