The importance of being Miriam Margoyles

Miriam Margolyes


British-Australian actress, Miriam Margolyes, OBE, is an internationally renowned star of stage, screen and voice over with a biography and CV so extensive it would require ten printed pages from Wikipedia to reel it all off. Younger audiences may remember her as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films while older audiences might have seen her BAFTA Award winning portrayal of Mrs Mingott in The Age of Innocence or her brilliant stage performances in Dickens’ Women or I’ll Eat You Last. A virtuoso of comedic and dramatic talents, Margolyes is also well known for her wonderful wit, unpredictable interview replies and unvarnished political opinions.

I caught up with Margolyes before she arrives for her final touring performance of The Importance of Being Miriam at Frankston Arts Centre on Sunday 24 May.

MINT: Does your love of literature and literary figures stem from your days at Newnham College, Cambridge?

I think it does, but not only from Cambridge because I was already reading voraciously when I was at school. I think the original spur toward literature is a temperamental thing which comes from my love of words and then afterwards when I went to school I read and read and read… Then when I went to Cambridge, I was taught beautifully and brilliantly by the professors there. That cemented my love of literature.   

MINT: Dickens, Shakespeare and Wilde are clearly authors you love and rightly so, but would you consider a ladies of literature show? If so, whom would you choose?

Oh I certainly would except that I’m never going to do another one-person show. I’ve had enough of that. It’s just lonely. I’m very lucky I’ve got John Martin who is singing and playing piano with me on stage. That makes it so much nicer. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy and relish women artists and their work and there are so many. Of course the famous ones are the ones that interest me: George Eliot, Jane Austen, and the letters… Dorothy Wordsworth…There is a vast number of woman writers who are fascinating. I would probably like Gertrude Stein, but she’s not incredibly transparent to say the least. What lead me to Dickens so ferociously was being fascinated by the personality of the man himself as well as the glory of the work. I’m not sure… I would think the Brontes, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning…these are all fascinating women. I don’t really see a sexual divide. Words don’t have gender for me. They are universal.

MINT: Who are some of the characters of stage or screen you have most enjoyed portraying?

Really whatever I’m doing at the time is the one I’m enjoying most. I would definitely say not Professor Sprout because people think that if you’re in a Harry Potter film that is the acme of one’s ambition. I loved playing Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Women. I enjoyed playing Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World and I enjoyed Mrs Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer. I also very much enjoyed playing Sister George in The Killing of Sister George. 

MINT: What is the biggest buzz about acting? What drives you?

I really like people. I’ve always wanted to connect with people. It’s a temperamental thing. I’m not frightened of people. I want them to be with me and share in an experience and I think people can feel that and think; ‘oh this is a friendly person. I can sit and listen to her.’ I like people and I want to make people happy.

MINT: We are delighted to have you come to Frankston Arts Centre for your last stop in The Importance of Being Miriam. Can you tell us something about this show that isn’t in the press releases?

Yes. Frankston is the very last stop in this show. I will not be touring it or performing it again. If they don’t see me this time, well, they just won’t get to see me. I hope people will think; ‘I better see her before she conks out.’ Truthfully, I’m not sure what’s in the press releases, but let me see…there are some disturbing things in the show when I’m asking the audience to confront their moral choices towards the end of the show and it does provoke some strong responses on occasion.    

See The Importance of Being Miriam at Frankston Arts Centre on Sunday 24 May at 4pm.

Bookings on 9784 1060 or

First published in Mint Magazine – May/June 2015

Author: Andrea Louise Thomas

Share This Post On
468 ad