Tuesday, 11 December 2012

An Evening With Charles Dickens (Simon Callow)

"Old Marley Was As Dead As A Doornail........."

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a favourite book of mine when I was little, a book that always came out as Christmas approached.  Then on each Christmas Eve, I would stay up late to watch Alistair Simms in the role of Scrooge in the best ever film adaptation of the book.  I have to confess that this is still one of my all time favourite movies.  I can almost smell the scent of sherry and taste the flavours of sweet mince pies as I watch it.

Well, you can imagine my delight when I managed to get hold of a ticket to watch Simon Callow adorn the robes of Charles Dickens and perform this magical story on stage in the West End of London. Charles Dickens chose this story for the first and last of his public readings (the text for this show is based on the author’s own performing adaptation).  And now I had the opportunity to watch Callow play Dickens.

The day started well with an enjoyable train journey into the city. I did my regular thing, and headed straight to Covent Garden to get into the festive spirit, before grabbing a bite to eat at lunchtime.  There is something special about London when approaching Christmas.  I am not sure if it is the smell of chestnuts being roasted on street corners, or whether it is the smell of mulled wine wafting from decorated kiosks, or even just the buzz and atmosphere of being in such a historic and grand location.

It was a cold and crisp day, the kind of day that really would freeze the balls of the brass monkeys.  My nose was cold and I could see my breath in the cold air.  I eventually arrived at the theatre door and walked inside.  It was toastie and warm, and the hall was full of laughter and excitement.  I showed my ticket to the usher who had the biggest smile and wore a santa's hat.  She directed me to my seat with her torch, and I sat down.  I moved my coat and slid down the seat to get nice and comfortable.  Anybody who has visited the theatres in London will well know that there isn't too much leg  room in the old theatres.  It really does take a while to get comfy (and usually as soon as you do get settled, somebody else arrives who has a seat further down your row.  So you have to stand up again to let them past,  giving them a wry smile and a nod as they pass, and then grumbling as you sit down and try to get settled again).
The curtains soon lifted to reveal the stage.  The staging was minimal: two piles of chairs festooned with fairy lights, a brief scattering of snowflakes, the occasional sound of bells and tinkling piano music, and a screen onto which was projected an office clock and a foggy London street — the wraiths of Scrooge’s bleak office and comfortless apartment.
Callow himself, in overcoat and muffler, began his account of Scrooge’s hauntings in dry, almost nervous fashion, playing against the voluptuous lushness of Dickens’s language to convey a piercing sense of his character’s utter isolation — from his own heart, as well as from the rest of humanity. "Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that..." and the story begins.

As the spirits lead him back to a time when he was beloved and happy, the animation rose: with a few surprisingly nimble dance-steps, the actor summoned the invisible celebratory throng at the Fezziwigs’ impromptu ball or his nephew Fred’s Christmas dinner. He told of barrels of oysters and phantoms and coal boxes and Tiny Tim’s gallant little struggle and the whole thing sprung to life as Callow rotated his noble chops.
The characterisation were subtle — this was storytelling, not impersonation. But Callow did it with such conviction as to persuade the audience that they were hearing the story for the very first time.

I will leave you with Simon Callow to explain more about the play.  If you get the opportunity to go to see it, I whole heartily encourage you to do so.  It comes with a full, warm and festive 5 ***** star rating from me.

Merry Christmas!!!
Graham x

Please be welcome to leave a comment below:


Anonymous said...

Wow Graham, it looks like you had a great weekend in London. Am so envious that you watched Simon Callow on stage. Emma x

Cocaine Princess said...

So happy you were able to see your fave film in a theater production.

"...smell the scent of sherry and taste the flavours of sweet mince pies"

Oh Graham you are a true English man aren't you! During this time of year my English side always misses all the delicious English sweets.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Graham Ettridge said...

@ Emma, thank you! It was a wonderful and ver festive time.

@ CP. I can travel the world but will always remain an English Gentleman. And I know there will always be a little part of you that remains in "Old Blighty". One day you should pop back and visit :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too! xoxo

Cocaine Princess said...

RE: One day you should pop back and visit :)

-I will!

Graham's Photobook....Through The Eyes Of A Dreamer

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