Tag Archives: Miriam Margolyes

The Original Theatre Company

Artistic director Alastair Whatley has had a good lockdown. His Original Theatre Company started by filming its productions, The Croft and The Habit of Art, when denied a live audience back in March. Since then, three online productions, including the acclaimed Birdsong, have been enjoyed on the theatre’s own streaming site. Currently two shorts are generously available for free.

Watching Rosie

For personal reasons, I normally shy away from theatre about dementia. But this short film, first screened in August, is a wonderfully sensitive and inspiring piece with an important purpose.

Highlighting the plight of dementia sufferers, and their careers, during current times, Louise Coulthard’s video call scenario is moving and sweet. It focuses on loneliness as much as failing faculties.

Miriam Margolyes, Amit Shah & Louise Coulthard in Watching Rosie Original Theatre Company
Miriam Margolyes, Amit Shah & Louise Coulthard in Watching Rosie

Coulthard also stars as Rosie, who is calling her nan, and while the pain of the situation is clear there’s also humour. Miriam Margolyes plays the elderly Alice to perfection, showing the frustration and fear that this cruel condition brings.

As the title indicates, it’s Alice who is watching out for Rosie. Matchmaking in lockdown, with a volunteer who is bringing food, a date is arranged for her granddaughter! Reminding us of what Alice can still do manages to suggest possibilities as well as problems.

Mrs Goldie vs The World

A new addition, Nicky Goldie’s piece, which she wrote and performs in, follows similar lines. This time a middle-aged carer recounts looking after her mother during lockdown. Cooking and having a glass of wine as she asks “permission to rant” makes for a sociable and intimate feel that Goldie (pictured top) sustains with ease.

Mrs Goldie may claim to suffer from dementia herself, but she’s as sharp as they come. Sometimes, a little too sharp for her daughter so that, presumably based on real life, the piece has a frank and honest tone. This is a vivid, enjoyable, depiction of great affection. Mrs Goldie is a character you long to hear more about.

Aided by Goldie’s impersonations, a “grumpy old woman” comes to life with her independence and eccentricities. That she’s a touch snobbish is easily excused – anyone who corrects Julian Fellowes is fine with me – and it’s sincerely hoped that she is as “indestructible” as her daughter describes.

Coming next…

Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon is also available to view. This new online play written by Torben Betts boasts strong reviews. And there’s a Christmas treat in store: from 17 December Philip Franks has adapted an MR James ghost story that should be perfect for dark winter nights. Tickets are available at a special pre-order price of £12.50 now.


“Madam Rubinstein” at the Park Theatre

Everybody loves Miriam Margolyes. This story of a monstrous cosmetics tycoon, once one of the richest self-made women in the world, provides a larger-than-life role that brings her centre stage. One of our finest comic actresses, it’s a thrill to see Margolyes expertly handle some great jokes.

The briefest research about Helena Rubinstein shows that playwright John Misto’s depiction is motivated by the potential of caricature. So be it, making the character ruthless and miserly gives the perfect palate for Margolyes to work with. She shouts Yiddish insults from her skyscraper to rival Revlon’s, while keeping chicken drumsticks in the office safe. At least she’s kind enough to provide free electricity for those slaving away in her office. A collection of clichés yes, with malapropisms via Poland, but it’s all very funny.

While the comedy foundation is good the rest of the play’s makeup is hastily applied. Attempts at suspense surrounding espionage in the cosmetics business fail to add tension. Helena’s traumatic lifestory and emotional frigidity feel tacked on. A substitute son, in the figure of her gay bodyguard, capably performed by Patrick O’Higgins, gives rise to more good gags before becoming a dead end. Intense rivalry leads to some great scenes with the excellent Francis Barber as Elizabeth Arden (this relationship already the subject of a documentary and a musical) but the two makeup maestros’ could have more time together. Barber seems criminally wasted.

Jez Bond directs efficiently but like the no frills set from Al Turner there’s a lack of imagination that the show really needs an injection of. Listed like this, it all sounds negative. But you’ll be laughing enough to forgive. Nearly all of Turner’s jokes – and there are a lot of them – land. If the play gets as many star ratings as it has laughs its sell out run at the Park will only be the start of things.

Until 27 May 2017


Photo by Simon Annand