Dickens of a show

HOW do you review a one-man show?

When the one man is Simon Callow, it’s much easier to simply sit back and be amazed.

And amused. And moved. And above all, entertained.

Callow has become known in recent years for his one-man interpretations of the work of that master of Victorian authors, Charles Dickens. Doctor Marigold and Mr Chops is exactly that, two separate stories, both written for the stage. Dickens was a consummate performer of his own work – and who better to take up the baton a century and a half later than an accomplished actor who is one of his greatest admirers?

Against a wonderfully chaotic backcloth festooned with theatre posters and all the clutter of a pedlar’s cart, Callow brings to exuberant life some of the more colourful aspects of Victorian life: the travelling freak show, and the cheapjack, a kind of 19th century Delboy Trotter.

The rise and fall in London society of Mr Chops the dwarf is charted by the freak show’s proprietor Toby Madgman, resplendent in brocade waistcoat and fine cloth coat. Callow portrays Toby, Chops, and another character or two for good measure, gambolling around the stage like a labrador puppy.

Doctor Marigold (Doctor is his first name), a plain man in tweed waiscoat and corduroy breeches, tells his own story: an emotional rollercoaster of love and loss, more of both, and finally a glorious reunion.

It’s a delicious piece of theatre, ideal for a pre-Christmas treat, at Sheffield’s Lyceum till Saturday.