Pip Utton is Charles Dickens

5 Stars

*****

Pip Utton is a storyteller who can keep an audience spellbound with his skills to inform, amuse and move. His style in his portrayal of Dickens is conversational and witty. He opens with Dickens’ death in 1870 but not in a melodramatic way – twice as it happened for the benefit of a couple of latecomers.

He concentrates on the final 12 years of Dickens’ life which turned out to be his happiest years. Two events occurred which brought this about. Firstly, he met Nell, a young and attractive actress who became his ‘female friend’, a euphemism for mistress. Secondly, he discovered after carrying out a book reading in Birmingham that he could make substantial sums of money by touring Britain, and subsequently America, reading extracts from his novels. With 10 children and an extended family to support, supplementing his income was vital.

Pip Utton brings out Dickens’ humanity and why his novels made such an impact during his lifetime and why they continue to be important to this day. The recent Hollywood version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ springs immediately to mind and how Dickens would have relished the share of the revenues were he alive today.

A selection of readings is performed. There included the amusing courtroom scene involving Sam Weller from ‘Pickwick Papers’. This contrasted with the sombre description of the brutal murder perpetrated by Bill Sykes from ‘Oliver Twist’.

A measure of the success of any performer is does the audience want more. Even after giving a 75 minute performance, I had the feeling the audience would have gladly stayed for more readings, such was their enjoyment and, indeed, mine also.

Reviewed by Ben

St George’s West: 157

5 to 29 August 2011 (not 17, 24)

13.30 – 14.45

Fringe Programme Page Number: 288

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