Monday, 10 February 2014
The Invisible Woman is quite simply brilliant and within minutes I felt transported back to the 1860s ... whisked out of my cinema seat to be at one of Dickens' public readings, or up in the balcony at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, watching him perform The Frozen Deep. The details are wonderful, from Victorian wallpapers to the scene at Doncaster races which could have been William Powell Frith's Derby Day. It raises some interesting questions about the position of women in Victorian society... when Dickens and Nelly are involved in an altercation on the doorstep, a constable says, "Is this lady bothering you, Sir?" And, although Nelly's mother is clearly complicit in their relationship ... how else can poor Nelly support herself as the only untalented member of a theatrical family?
The best performance, though, is Joanna Scanlan's fat, frumpy Mrs Dickens - who, in one heartbreaking scene, is forced by her husband to deliver a gift of jewellery to Nelly, after it was wrongly addressed by the jeweller who assumed it was meant for his wife. As for Dickens, he's vain, dandyish, endlessly energetic, ruthless, selfish - and completely irresistible. And I should think Claire Tomalin is completely thrilled by this adaptation of her biography.