By Margaret Mather
Lesley Smith’s dramatisation of George Eliot recalling her life was simply, outstanding. Dressed in period costume, Lesley sat on a chair and regaled the audience for ninety minutes, with tales of George Eliot’s (Mary Ann Evans) life.
After ten minutes, I didn’t see Lesley on stage, I saw George Eliot so strong was the performance. Sadness, humour, hope and eventually happiness, spilled from her mouth. There were things I didn’t know about George Eliot, Lesley brought those stories to life, warts and all.
For years, Mary Ann immersed herself in religion, and then at sixteen, rebelled against the church and her father. Her sexual relationship with a female friend, an affair, aged 24 with a man of 63, all led to a colourful life. Ostracized from the family by her beloved brother Isaac, for living in sin with a man she considered to be her husband, George Eliot’s life made Fifty Shades of Grey look tame.
A seam of humour ran through Lesley’s performance and humanised George Eliot for me. All of her life Mary Ann had put up with cruel jibes about her looks and the best way to overcome it was to laugh or, even better, write them into a story as she did with so many of her characters. She turned to humour in a bid to stem the hurt those comments must have caused her.
This was not about her books, this play was about the woman herself, played to perfection by Lesley Smith.
“Meet the Woman” is the premiere of Lesley Smith’s portrayal of George Eliot, commissioned by the GEF to mark the bi-centenary of her birth.
The George Eliot Fellowship has commissioned three performances to be held in March, June and November.
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