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One of the UK's leading film and theatre personalities, famed for his character acting and his love of music and literature, Simon Callow narrates Peter Ackroyd's vivid account of Dickens' life. 

Dickens was the first novelist to chronicle the life of London. Already the largest city in Europe when Dickens was born in 1812, during his lifetime the urbanisation of Britain took place and people were enticed to the capital by the promise of work and a better life and also by the idea that something exciting was going on there: theatres, music halls, crowds and general hubbub. It was this creation of a new kind of place of infinite possibilities that constantly fired Dickens's imagination and, for his millions of readers, his novels brought to life the mystery, terror and wonder of a great city. 

The Mystery of Charles Dickens brilliantly brings the world of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit and The Pickwick Papers to life, with impressions of some of Dickens' finest and funniest characters including Sam Weller, Fagin, Mr Micawber and Bill Sikes. 

This highly acclaimed one-man show, filmed at the end of a sell-out season, was the first West End show to be broadcast live on the internet. The Mystery of Charles Dickens now returns to www.onlineclassics.com in an edited version, enriched with behind the scenes material, on Friday March 2nd 6pm (GMT), and will be available on demand throughout the world from that date.


Them & the book

Simon Callow's "Mystery of Charles Dickens"

 He was an actor and a speaker from a baby, as he wrote, and it seems like all his writings were meant as an exercise of observation, to make him more real a man - able to return to the stage more genuine an actor. He learned without asking ("I looked nothing, that I know of, but I saw everything"), he couldn't give back his vision by just speaking - he needed to be seen like he saw, to let the others observe him like he observed them. More than this, he wanted his characters to be observed, to become himself a mirror, reflective on both surfaces and bi-directional at the same time!, transparent - more a healer than a reader. His insight was transformed into a philanthropy and finally it was performed in the soul-stage of his audience: 

"...do me the honour to shake hands Misther Dickens and God bless you sir; not ounly for the light you've been to me this night, but for the light you've been in mee house sir (and God love your face!) this many a year!" (See Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, 8,4). 

Simon Callow This is it: this is "them and the book", and for an actor to repeat what Dickens did it needs more than being a good actor. First of all he must not love Dickens - he must love his audience and the book, which I partly saw in Simon Callow's performance of "The Mystery of Charles Dickens". In one hour and a half, Callow narrates Peter Ackroyd's biography of Dickens, Peter Ackroyd"interspersed with impressions of some of his finest characters, such as Sam Weller, Fagin, Mr. Micawber and Bill Sikes." The show is available on-line but you can not download it. However, if you have an audio recorder, you can activate it and capture everything. I don't believe it's something you'd like to miss... Add a note!

Cf. Charles Dickens comes to life on London stageAdd a note!A Charles Dickens biographyAdd a note!John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens Add a note!Dickens @ Ellopos

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Wanderer, March 2001