Simon Callow

For one night only lucky Sydney siders were privileged to hear distinguished actor Simon Callow deliver a captivating monologue on Charles Dickens.

Now silver-haired, in mellifluous voice , Callow was casually yet elegantly dressed in a grey suit and had the audience spellbound .
Like Dickens, Callow is both actor and author. As an actor Callow has performed in (amongst other things) ‘A Room With A View’ ‘Shakespeare In Love’, ’Howard’s End’ and ’Four Weddings and a Funeral’. On stage, to mention just one production, he was the original Mozart in Peter Shaffer’s ‘Amadeus’. He is also a prolific author producing thirteen books thus far.

In a gripping ,mesmerizing monologue we learn of Callow’s relationship with Dickens – from the age of seven, attending a performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ – and eventually playing Scrooge and other characters in various productions- through to now, both as reader and actor. The story of his life threatening performance, with a dramatic fall whilst playing Mr Fezziwig in 1973, was a highlight. He has also for example played Mr Micawber in a BBC production.

Callow’s love and enthusiasm for Dickens is glowingly evident throughout. We are reminded that Dickens wrote in instalments and against the clock and also wrote detective and ghost stories amongst other things.

We are given a potted biography of Dickens , from his early idyllic childhood, his appalling eighteen months in a blacking factory , through to his eventually learning shorthand and becoming a clerk. Then the sudden meteoric overnight rise to fame with the publishing of the Pickwick Papers in 1836 and how things exploded from there.

Of crucial importance is Dicken’s love and understanding of his readers, the general public and his ability to write to and for them. Also mentioned is Dicken’s various campaigns for social justice. This is combined with Dickens’s lifelong passion for the theatre, his work as an actor and the ‘public readings’ of his writings.

Also mentioned is his disastrous marriage to Catherine and his scandalous affair(at the time hotly denied ) with young actress Ellen Ternan . His tours of America are discussed ( and how his attitude towards America changed) and also the rock star like adulation his public readings developed. Queen Victoria herself was a big fan).

Drawing his speech to a close we learn about Dickens’ strained health and the very sad stroke and coma leading to his death . A delightful finish was provided as Callow (who has played Dickens in ‘Doctor Who’ )quoted from the 2006 Christmas episode.
A sparkling, delightful Victorian feast .

Callow’s latest book is ‘Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World ‘ : his earlier work was ‘Charles Dickens : A Victorian Celebration ‘ and he has just been a keynote speaker at the Melbourne Writers Festival .

The running time was approximately 90 minutes.

Simon Callow performed at the Sydney Opera House for one night only 26 August 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

27th August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- SIMON CALLOW at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster