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Simon Callow
Sat 25th Feb

Simon Callow

Simon Callow reads excerpts from his exciting new biography Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World


In his own words: "When you find a writer that you love it's like finding a best friend. Dickens never ceases to delight me. There's something in him which chimes with me: the energy; the scope; the generosity; the endless inventiveness of it. There is in Dickens the spirit of the medieval carnival that just deeply turns me on. That sense of the world as one big body and a celebration and embrace of all its grotesqueness, the ugliness, the smell, the sweat.

One of the extraordinary things about Dickens is that although he seems in some ways quintessentially English in other ways he's so fundamentally anti-establishment. He's always embraced by people that have reason not to like the English. He was hugely successful in Dublin. Same with Australia. There's a curious sense that Dickens is the best of England.

His stories are examples of what I suppose one could call the higher sentimentality…… in that they break your heart, but in a terrific kind of way. They're fantastic pieces of storytelling that are designed precisely to make you laugh and cry. I suspect he was the greatest storyteller that ever lived.

He was also a comic genius. Some of the writing is surreal and anarchic. It takes you by surprise how completely barmy it is. You think: “Where did that come from?” He's like a comedian on a riff.

FOOTNOTE: I found playing Dickens in Doctor Who a lot of fun. Mark Gatiss from The League Of Gentlemen wrote it and did such justice to Dickens and it could only have been written by somebody who deeply knew and loved his writing. The final speech when the Doctor goes back into the Tardis and Dickens says: “I've just got one question for you – will my books still be read in the future?” And he says: “Yes.” And Dickens says: “How long for?” and he replies: “Forever” I found very moving."


Saturday 25th February at 3pm

£15 (£13)