Celebrity British-Australian actor Miriam Margoyles (Professor Sprout in Harry Potter, Madame Horrible in Wicked) lent her voice talents to NAI’s unprecedented five-hour marathon reading of George Eliot’s 900 page, 8-part masterpiece of realism, Middlemarch. Book One, Miss Brooke, is set to be the “finishing line” for the run, with timed snack breaks and “commercials” from volunteer “reading buddies” to catch up, rally, and send the readers off to the end of the event. Parents and peers, social media users, alumni, and USC students and faculty cheered on the marathon.
Margolyes mesmerized her teen audience with her magnetic voice narrative, sprinkled with asides about the characters. “I see Mr. Cassaubon as the villain of the piece. Dorothea is kidding herself that she’s in love with him. She really wants him; she fancies him (that’s the English word for having the hots for someone),” she noted, to general laughter from the crowd. The classroom quieted when Margolyes touched on the progressive nature of the 1872 novel, marveling, “that someone in the Victorian times could write of that passion and that destructiveness so coolly... She writes coolly, but burns hot, George Eliot. She was one of the bravest women that ever lived, doing that.” Margolyes concedes.
Margolyes is a long-time attendee of the Dickens Universe, and is a part of the developing relationship between the Dickens Project and USC NAI. After the marathoners’ 8:32PM completion of Book One, Margolyes encouraged the students before she departed, remarking, “I wish you luck in reading it. I wish you joy. It’s not easy. But don’t give up. Because if you can get through it, if you can get through to the end, that novel, and all the other novels I hope you read, will truly enrich your lives. Although your lives are very different from that life, everything that happens in literature feeds into your soul. It did for me. So take that with you when you read that book, and all the other books that you will read. You are the future, that is past, but you can join it, and make it work.”