Callow shines in a Dickens of a show

Picture of Simon Callow

Dr Marigold & Mr Chops

Malvern Festival Theatre

*****

Simon Callow is absolutely the master of powerful story telling!

As quite the authority on Dickens, he has successfully presented the life of Charles Dickens in both the West End and Broadway, Callow brings to life two one-man plays in what I can only describe as a truly absorbing evening at the theatre.

Adapted by Patrick Garland, these masterpieces were most popular with Dickens himself who performed them on his reading tours in the late 1860s.  

To shed a little more light, Dickens, as a desperate need for a distraction from his own personal life, began touring and performing these short stories to the delight of his audiences.  Pictiure of Dr Marigold

The readings intensified his own love affair with a young actress, for whom he left his wife of 22 years, as he sought and found approval, beginning a connection with the general public, as he toured Europe and America.

The first lighter, and perhaps less engaging of the two stories, is told by Callow as he portrays Toby Magsman, a Victorian fairground manager, who recounts the tale of a dwarf, Mr. Chops, who wins the lottery and thus a place in society, only to discover that there is more human kindness in his previous wretched existence, then there is on offer in the overly acclaimed society itself.

MOVING STORY

The second more memorable and moving story of Dr Marigold was inspired by Dickens after finishing “Our Mutual Friend”.  Dickens claimed that “the little character came flashing upon.... in the most cheerful manner and I had only to look on and leisurely describe it."

Here we meet a travelling salesman who adopts a young deaf and dumb girl.  Callow transforms himself into this simple but honorable man, moving from an unhappy marriage to a violent woman and the death of his daughter through to his adoption of the young waif and eventually a far happier and fulfilled life.  The warmth of the relationship between Dr Marigold and Sophie evolves.

Both pieces explore the differences between the social classes in true Dickens style with a clever blend of humor, the bizarre and also the poignant.

It's quite mesmerizing how one man can captivate an audience over little less than a two hour period.   But this is where Callow is so masterful, the richness of the lone voice exposes all human emotions to the core, as he fills every moment of each story with his magnificent energy, gusto and passion.

It is sentimental and slightly overdone at times but the richness of writing, performance and a magical set swathed in a sea of red velvet curtains creates a spell which cannot fail to enchant.

This is a chance for audiences of all generations to witness a fine actor, presenting a master class in delivery, character dexterity, and sheer acting brilliance.  To 19-11-11.

Johanna Brand

Home Malvern  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre