The World's Wife

Linda Marlow reads a selection of poems from Carol Ann Duffy's collection

June 28, 2010
Oxford Playhouse, Friday 11th June 2010, 5pm

An interesting concept for a show– performer Linda Marlowe acts out adaptations from the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s poems on history’s uncelebrated other halves– the wives of well known men from history, philosophy, mythology, movies etc. Marlowe takes us through a quick-paced performance of 19 poems in 45 minutes so this is a fast-moving show with not much time to question, understand or catch your breath– she whizzed flawlessly from skit to skit, completing the recitals word-perfectly whilst acting out the stories. Marlowe is an energetic and likeable performer, which is crucial as this is a one-woman performance with no time to lose her way, and her presence captivated the audience from start to finish.

Highlights include the perspectives of Frau Freud, Queen Kong, Mrs. Quasimodo and Mrs. Midas– my favourite was Eurydice, the Greek mythological figure whose husband Orpheus rescued her from the Underworld to bring her back to life– but we learn the conditions attached made her want to go back there. Mainly a light-spirited and amusing look at the wives’ untold tales, there are some darker tales too– ‘The Devil’s Wife’ is about Moors murderer Myra Hindley, so there are moments of dark contemplation amongst the laugh-out-loud sketches. From a feminist perspective, it is a sobering look at the roles and portrayal of women throughout history and mythology, as it slices through a variety of ages and draws out untold tales of wives from oppressed eras.

This was a real treat for a Friday tea-time showing - for fans of Duffy’s poems it is an enjoyable way to see them come to life; however it is a fast-paced rollercoaster of a performance which would also appeal to newcomers who want a more lighthearted, entertaining look at contemporary poetry. Although it does help to have some understanding of the subjects featured, as there is no explanation or time to understand it. I would advise taking a few minutes to visit the website or at least read the programme before the performance to understand the jist of the characters, and do make sure you take time to go for a post-show drink or dinner to talk it over!
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