Dr Marigold and Mr Chops, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Review


Monologues are notoriously difficult to do well. Their reliance on a single individual to keep an audience engaged for the duration of a show is a huge test of a performer’s skill and acting ability. However, Simon Callow is no stranger to the one-man play. A return to familiar territory following his somewhat controversial Fringe performance, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops illustrates once again that Callow is a master storyteller.

A play of two stories: the first is a tale of a dwarf by the name of Mr Chops, whose luck with the lottery provides him with the place in society he has so desperately craved; the second is of a travelling salesman named Dr Marigold, who adopts a little deaf and dumb girl.

First to strike the eye is a stunning set that is decadent yet derelict, with long, red, velvet curtains draped behind tables of cobwebbed trinkets. Amongst the bric-a-brac, Callow takes to the stage and at once has the audience enraptured. Dickens is often criticised for the long-windedness of his writing, yet Callow manages to deliver the text with a universal accessibility that is immediately apparent.

The tales themselves are interesting in the way they point to injustices in society that are equally applicable today. Mr Chops is powerful in the way it illustrates the exploitation of celebrity, where a person can still be used and discarded when they are no longer beneficial to others. It focuses on how one’s place in society doesn’t naturally entail one’s overall happiness; a factor which Mr Chops only realises when it is too late.

Dr Marigold, on the other hand, is remarkable in the way it is delivered through sales talk, with a narrative explained by deals and exchanges. Once again, this is a story which has an emphasis on society, this time looking at a disabled person’s place within it.

What Dr Marigold and Mr Chops iterates is heartwarming stories with an underlying poignancy that can teach us a lot about our own lives. Whilst not perfect, this is a brilliant way to ease oneself into the world of Dickens.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Nov 8th 2011.