Miriam Margolyes gets packing for Australia

Friday:Miriam Margolyes Almost Australian; (BBC Two, 9pm)

Miriam Margolyes with Justin and Katie O’Brien at the O’Brien Farm, Tottenham, NSW
Miriam Margolyes with Justin and Katie O’Brien at the O’Brien Farm, Tottenham, NSW

They say that home is where the heart is – and for Miriam Margolyes that can be any one of three places.

She maintains properties in Kent and Tuscany, and also has a place in the large village of Robertson in New South Wales, which she shares with Australian retired academic Heather Sutherland, her partner of more than 50 years.

The country certainly means a lot to her. She’s been a regular visitor for decades and in 2013 became an Australian citizen during a ceremony she describes as one of the most meaningful events of her life. However, Margolyes admits to knowing little about what goes on outside her own little circle.

“I felt I had to get out of my ‘bubble’ and meet all kinds of people,” she explains. “I think that’s something we all need to do.

“I need to get to know Australia; it’s the people who make a country – and I am now one of the people.”

She continues: “I’m a filter – albeit a noisy filter – for their view of what it means to be Australian in the world right now. I come to the project humbly, but I do have my own assumptions, presumptions, thoughts and anxieties that I need to explore.”

“Miriam is able to shine a light on things that other people miss,” adds Laurie Critchley from production company Southern Pictures. “While she can have a kind of bull-in-a-china-shop energy, it’s always coupled with her incredible powers of empathy, insight, humour and an open mind.

“Miriam is up front about being a new Australian with a lot to learn – we were amazed how she connected with everyone she met.

“I’m extremely proud that our series will be a part of the BBC’s prime-time line-up for 2020. Miriam and Australia are an irresistible combination.”

To many viewers, Margolyes is best known for playing Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets or Mother Mildred in Call the Midwife. During her long and varied career, they are arguably the roles that have brought her most attention. However, in 2016, she branched out into travelogues and documentaries when she appeared in the first series of The Real Marigold Hotel.

Her larger-than-life character made her stand out from the crowned, earned her a new set of fans, and prompted the BBC to hire her again, not only for the spin-off series The Real Marigold On Tour, but also for her own shows, Miriam’s Big American Adventure, Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure and Miriam’s Big Fat Adventure.

But she’s most proud of her subsequent 10,000km tour around her adopted nation: “This series is a journey of discovery,” she explains, “and I loved every minute of it.”

As usual, Margolyes is forthright in her opinions and wastes no time throwing herself into her project in Bondi, where she meets an estate agent who has much to say about the vibrant migrant market. But matters take a darker turn when she hears from women of a similar age to herself who are struggling to make ends meet before investigating the impact of a drought in the eastern part of the country.

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