Wednesday, 19 August 2009


18/8/09, Assembly (Edinburgh Fringe)

One woman show with Linda Marlowe performing Carol Ann Duffy's sequence of monologues by the wives of the famous (and infamous): Mrs Faust, Mrs Darwin, Mrs Beast, Queen Herod were the ones I instantly recalled; D though of Mrs Midas, Mrs Quasimodo, The Devil's Wife, Eurydice and Mrs Kong.

The Devil's Wife was clearly Myra Hindley. Mrs Faust was a throaty 40-something who shared a secret about her ex ("he had no soul"). Queen Herod it was who ordered the massacre of the innocents after the three queens had seen her beautiful baby daughter and told her to look out for a star heralding the birth of Him, Mr Right. Mrs Midas coped womanfully with the disastrous consequences of a golden touch. Eurydice did everything she could to make O turn round, and eventually resorted to flattering his songs (it worked). And so on.

They reminded you what a clever, approachable poet Duffy is, wittily spinning variations on the familiar stories or subverting them altogether. Moving, too on occasion. The scalp prickled once or twice, and the highly successful Mrs Beast's litany of those who hadn't made it (starting with Eve) brought tears to the eyes.

Marlowe did it all with the barest minimum of props (scarves, glasses, a cardy) and nothing but projections on the back wall telling us who was who and a snatch of music as she slipped from one character to another.

It worked well as a performance, less well as drama. The sequence would have worked equally well with the poems in a different order, you felt: there were contrasts of light and shade, funny and harrowing, conversational and more formal, but no development, no dramatic structure.

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