The Mystery of Charles Dickens (review)
Simon Callow is arguably the only actor now working who is capable of holding an audience with a one-man show.
His passion for Charles Dickens is infectious and the energy with which he throws himself into the telling of the writer’s remarkable life makes for enthralling viewing.
The only thing that baffled me during the two-hour show at London’s Playhouse Theatre is why it is called The Mystery of Charles Dickens. There was no mystery to it, only a play packed with wonderful vocal characterisations, anecdotes and asides from the highly animated Mr Callow.
The actor shares his obsession for Dickens with an appreciative audience. He starts at the moment of Dickens’ birth and gives us a colourful monologue peppered with stories about the writer’s upbringing, his determination to become a writer, his gritty determination to succeed, his success as a social reformer, and his love of the theatre.
We’re treated to the seedier side of the great man, learning about his callous disregard of his wife and children plus his affairs and friendships with other women. Callow spares us nothing.
In-between he splendidly creates some of Dickens’ larger-than-life characters as only this beautifully spoken larger-than-life 63-year-old actor can.
It is an engrossing and fascinating show from one of this country’s most erudite and charming of thespians.
The Mystery of Charles Dickens, was written by historian Peter Ackroyd, but it might as well have come from the pen of its sole cast member who is something of an expert himself (he brought another one-man Dickens show, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops, to The Waterside last year and plans A Christmas Carol at The Arts Theatre in London this November).
Callow delivers a spellbinding performance complete with a couple of parlour tricks.
It’s a polished and passionate performance that will appeal to Dickens fans of all ages. Indeed the personable Mr Callow spent some time after the show talking to two young boys who had been, as I was, engrossed by his performance.
For tickets to The Mystery of Charles Dickens call the box office 0844 871 7615 or go to www.atgtickets.com/london
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