Eddie Izzard channels 19 characters in 'Great Expectations'

Emmy-winning British comedian and actress Eddie Izzard has been making audiences laugh since the late 1980s. 

Izzard, who identifies as a trans woman, is dyslexic and had never read a great work of literature. That was until she realized Charles Dickens was 150 years older — to the day. So, Izzard ended up recording the audio version of the novel. 

"But I also realized I could do a live version to go with it — sort of this Richard Pryor standup technique of characters talking to each other," Izzard said. "I was doing it in my standup — why not do it in a drama? And have the live performance be a companion to the audiobook."

The novel follows Pip, an English orphan who becomes rich, ditches his friends, and battles his own arrogance. But in this one-woman show, Izzard portrays 19 characters.

"They take on different voices and personas. I don't really take notes because I have to remember everything up there," Izzard said. "I try to link everything to my mind map." 

The Dickens story was adapted for the stage with the help of Eddie's brother, Mark Izzard. He had to cut down "Great Expectations" from 20 hours to two hours. 

So what was working with Eddie on the project like? 

"Hell, what's it like working with a sibling? But it can be great," Mark said. "We're two people in our 50s suddenly coming together and working — and you haven't spent that much time together since you were teenagers. And you were fighting then, and now we're fighting again. But amongst all of that we find a way of working."

Izzard is performing Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" through Feb. 11, 2023, at the Greenwich House Theater in Manhattan.