Through Pip Utton’s Charles Dickens the audience gains a lot of information about the famous author without feeling lectured. With dry wit and detail worthy of his subject, Utton delivers – from dramatic entry to deserved closing ovation (and with plenty of applause throughout) – a portrait of a man both humble and full of his own greatness, someone passionate and compassionate, a writer who is a performer and who poured great energy and life into his final years, gleefully reaping financial rewards along the way.
On a small stage sumptuously furnished with much red velvet, in intimate lighting helped by a fine candelabra, Dickens the man and Dickens the performer meld and draw the audience along with anecdotes biographical and the reading of excerpts of works and ‘little pieces’. Pip Utton is a master of the solo production and uses little tricks to gain applause and work on the warmth and emotional colour of the audience, but this is all done with ease and everyone’s willing collaboration. When we hear Dickens say that sometimes he can’t remember the right words or names, there is a real sense of connection between character and actor. We are invited to revel as much in the frailties of those we watch as in their achievements.
Pip Utton is Charles Dickens provides entertainment, information and moving emotional catharsis – along with a few amusing insights into friend and fellow author Wilkie Collins – and if there is sometimes a slight pulling back and distance to the performer‘s energy, there is great passion as well. This reviewer was likely not the only one wondering at the end if it might be possible to fit in at least one other of Mr Utton’s three Fringe 2011 productions.
By Danielle Farrow
5 – 29 August (not Wednesdays), 13:30 (14:45) @ St George’s West