Adapted from a selection of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems, the The World's Wife examines the stories of the great women behind some of history's greatest men, both real and imagined.
A previous winner of the Whatsonstage.com Best Solo Performance Award (for Berkoff’s Women in 2002), Marlowe has countless West End, TV and film credits but is perhaps best known for her collaborations with Steven Berkoff over a 25-year period, including Decadence, The Trial, Metamorphosis, Hamlet, Greek and Coriolanus.
The World's Wife is a physical theatrical rendering of a volume of poetry by Carol Ann Duffy, the first female Poet Laureate. The poems are written as monologues in the first person and they were crying out to be done in the theatre.
I contacted the publishers and asked for the rights. Her work has never been turned into a show before so I didn’t know whether she would say yes, but she did. After seeing the show twice, she said she loved what I had done with it and suggested that I could have the rights for a further five years; it was my dream come true.
The poems are based on the lives of the wives of famous people through history but there are also fictitious renderings such as Queen Kong. There are also poems about the Kray sisters, Myra Hindley and various mythical Greek figures like Mrs Midas.
It's Carol Ann Duffy’s take on what these women would have said about their men. Some of them are very funny, some are provocative, and others are quite dark. I've approached it in my physical style to bring them alive as characters, even giving them accents - Queen Kong has a Hispanic accent to make her sexy and feminine.
The writing isn’t heavy but there is a feminist aspect to it. It doesn’t come over as heavy feminism on stage but women have been silenced through history, they haven’t had their opinions and Carol Ann Duffy has a wonderful ability to, with humour, look at the idea that women haven’t had a voice through history but if they had of, this is how they would have reacted to their situation.
The show is entertaining, there are dark and disturbing moments as well as very funny ones; there is music to hear and I change costume to become the different women. As Queen Kong I fall on my back, tumble off chairs; there's plenty to look at!
With a solo performance you don’t have anybody to answer to and you don’t have to worry about whether anybody else is free to do it with you; you’re your own boss. You have the power to say 'I am free and I will conquer the world with my shows'. However going on stage alone is nerve-wracking as there's a lot of pressure, but if I’m not used to it now after ten years of solo work, I never will be.
My next project after this is directing a film. It's a very ambitious project with a script about something I have always dearly loved and believed in. I was going to try it this year but I don’t think my busy schedule will let me, so in the next couple of years.
I've also been introduced to a wonderful puppet company; they had an idea about a theatre cleaner who creates the idea that she wants to be Hamlet. Performing with puppets will be a wonderfully challenging thing for me to do - I believe we're taking it to the Edinburgh festival this year.
- Linda Marlowe was speaking to Kelly Ann Warden
The World's Wife continues at Trafalgar Studios 2 until 6 February 2010.