Miriam Margolyes is a self-described short, fat, Jewish lesbian. She is also one of Britain’s most beloved actors and she’s eighty years old. Oh, the stories she tells in her new memoir This Much is True. I have seen her interviewed a few times on The Graham Norton Show and when she mentioned she had written a memoir I knew I had to read it. Margolyes has no verbal filter and her life experiences are wonderful to read.
Born into a family of Russian immigrants, Margolyes grew up as a cherished only child. Her father was a doctor. Her mother was a social climber and a woman of strong opinions who insisted the family move to Oxford where their daughter would be exposed to a better class of people and receive a superior education. Her strategy worked as Margolyes made friends with the daughters of prominent intellectuals while attending school and even hob-nobbed with early members of The Footlight Club who spawned the Monty Python troupe at Cambridge University.
Because of LGBTQ activism, young people today are able to identify and express their sexual identity at a much younger age than when Margolyes was growing up. While she did not identify as a lesbian until she was into her twenties, she was certainly well-versed in all matters sexual and had a rather jolly time.
Her interest in acting was evident from a young age and she performed in numerous plays at university. Everything from Shakespeare to comedy productions were on the bill and as the years went on, her experience and resume grew to include live theatre, movies, television, and documentaries.
Reading This Much is True is great fun because Margolyes has what could be called a dirty mouth and she does not hesitate to relate not only personal stories but provides delicious gossip about familiar celebrity names we recognize. She’s a strong socialist, a loyal union supporter, and an enthusiastic left-wing political activist. Her life partner, Heather, plays a low profile and they have been a couple for more than fifty years. Miriam’s views are fascinating, especially on Jews and Israel. Not what you would expect.
Fortnately, the disadvantages of aging are more than counterbalanced by the advantages that are detailed by Margolyes. We can all relate to her recognition of the wisdom we have gained over the years and the ability to no longer care what other people think about our opinions and actions. When a young man refused to relinquish his seat on the subway to her when she was having back spasms, she promptly poured the contents of her water bottle on his head. She even devotes a chapter to explaining her penchant for Dirty Talk, something she has become famous for as the years went on.
Margolyes has never been what we might call top billing, but her face is recognizable in such recent shows as Call The Midwife when she had a brief stint as Mother Mildred. She also starred with Rowan Atkinson on Black Adder and a wide variety of other British, American, and Australian productions. Her short stature, ample girth, and undeniable talent have served her well as a character actress and a character for more than five decades. Reading her life story This Much is True was a total delight and I highly recommend it.
If you are unable to obtain This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes at your local bookstore or library, click on the image of the book to the left to order from Amazon. (Disclosure: I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.)