The production originally opened on 26 April 2000 at Woking's New Victoria Theatre before moving to the West End's Comedy on 6 September 2000. Following a successful run there, it replaced The Guardsman at the Albery Theatre from 30 October 2000. The current British dates are scheduled prior to a world tour.
Ackroyd, who has also written a major biography of Dickens, uses extracts from the novelist's stories alongside anecdotes from his life in this drama. Dickensian characters such as Bill Sykes, Mrs Gamp and Mr Micawber are brought to life whilst providing an insightful backdrop to Dickens' own circumstances. Dickens was also known for his interest in the theatre, and depicted a number of his own literary creations on stage. Ackroyd's most recent writing project was the historical analysis London: A Biography, and he is also the author of the best-selling novel Hawksmoor.
Simon Callow's previous West End appearance also involved recreating a writer's life (Oscar Wilde's) in The Importance of Being Oscar. The production's creative team, including director Patrick Garland, were also behind the formation of The Mystery of Charles Dickens. Callow's other recent theatre credits include The Chimes at Midnight (Chichester Festival) and The Pajama Game (Victoria Palace), which he directed. Renowned as a major screen presence, he has starred in such films as Shakespeare in Love, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Howard's End.
Following the Richmond dates, Callow takes the Dickens experience on to Bromley, Malvern, Brighton, Norwich, Glasgow and Dublin's Gaiety Theatre as part of the Dublin festival.
- by Gareth Thompson