Once you know that this is a one-man show about Dickens performed by Simon Callow and written by Peter Ackroyd, you know all you need.
In fact, there's little more to say. Ackroyd's writing is, as ever, sharp and intelligent if given every so often to a slightly too ostentatiously florid sentence or two. He interweaves accounts of Dickens's life and extracts from his works; since Dickens became legendary in his later years for his staggeringly intense and energetic performances on what could scarcely be called mere "reading" tours, Ackroyd concentrates on these during the second half.
Simon Callow fits neatly into the show and the style of performance required: as a character in Our Mutual Friend remarked of a lad who used to read the newspaper aloud to her, "he do the police in different voices". (Indeed, at one point Callow even cheekily "does" a judge in the voice of John Mortimer!) Even though I saw the show some two months into its London run, he seemed surprisingly unsure of his lines at several points, but all in all, if this is the kind of show you want, it does the job perfectly well.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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