Imagine having a fabulous great-aunt who has led a fascinating, slightly wicked life, is a brilliant storyteller and happens to have a wonderful collection of books at her house. This is what The Importance of Being Miriam put me in mind of.
During the two-hour-long show, Miriam Margolyes performs various monologues and readings from her favourite authors, including Charles Dickens, Clive James, Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare. It’s a very comfortable way to spend an afternoon or evening: Margolyes is delightful and has enough of a wicked twinkle in her eye for the show not to be saccharine. (I can’t say the same for her “chum”, John Martin, who provides piano accompaniment to some of the pieces and does a few solos. His rendition of Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum No.3 was excellent, but it was the only bit of his that I enjoyed.)
Highlights were a couple of short but brilliantly accurate impressions of Dame Maggie Smith and Queen Elizabeth II, the piece featuring Miss Flite from Dickens’s Bleak House, and a riotously funny story of performing the play Gertrude Stein and a Companion with Pamela Rabe at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival to an audience of 2000 naked lesbians.