Linda Marlowe opened the new season of plays at St James Theatre Studio with Poet Laureate Carol Duffy’s anthology ‘The World’s Wife’, giving an alternative look at history and mythology through the imagined viewpoints of the wives of famous figures.
“..exceptional vocal versatility and nimble movement..”
Linda Marlowe opened the new season of plays at St James Theatre Studio with a crackling collection of Poet Laureate Carol Duffy’s poems ‘The World’s Wife’. This anthology takes an oblique look at history and mythology through the imagined viewpoints of the wives of famous figures, both real and fictional, from Mrs Midas to the Kray Sisters.
There is a danger presenting a collection of verse of the recitations staying too much on one note, but this pitfall is most definitely avoided here, partly with the use of minimal set and costumes, together with text and graphics projected behind the performer, but mostly through the exceptional vocal versatility and nimble movement of Ms. Marlowe herself.
Linda Marlowe, a veteran of one-woman shows, creates a collage of different characters, emotions and scenarios that throws a uniquely perceptive glimpse at the modern world, as well as offering a different perspective on history. The poems themselves range from angry to darkly humorous to hilariously witty and subversive. I particularly enjoyed the fast-paced hysterically funny middle-class Mrs Faust, contrasting sharply with Delilah, a straight-talking Essex hairdresser.
Whilst Marlowe changes voice, costume and accents to differentiate characters, it is these skills combined her dynamic physicality that make her stand out as the acclaimed artist she is. She is fluid and graceful for some women, lumbering, crippled and angular for her portrayal of Mrs Quasimodo, tumbling like a circus performer for Queen Kong (Marlowe is a trained trapeze artist) and always expressive and purposeful in the choices made. The changes, both vocal and physical, all have valid narrative and theatrical intent, and are never allowed to become a series of tricks just simply to show off the performer’s abilities.
Under the direction of Di Sherlock, the poems move seamlessly from one to another, with the visual aid of the projections to provide introductions, and the evening is well structured with changes of pace and mood to keep the surprises coming. The studio used the tables and chairs layout for cabaret, which helped us get to know the women portrayed in a more intimate way than would have otherwise been the case.
This was an exciting and fitting start to the short season of drama in that is in the Studio this week, demonstrating the many uses and dynamism a small scale theatre can bring to the rich cultural life London has to offer. Later in the week, there will be an evening of Greek literature and drama, a powerful play on a mother battling for her disabled son’s rights, a provocative piece based on the true story of Jews betraying Jews in world War ll and a highly acclaimed thriller set in the 1950s.