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Leigh Hatts

Charles Dickens - The Sparkler of Albion at The George Inn

The Charles Dickens monoplay The Sparkler of Albion has come to Southwark for a summer run.

Lloyd Lee is a convincing Charles Dickens in the latest production of the play devised and written by Dr David Parker, former curator of the Charles Dickens Museum, and John Greco, founder of the Argonaut Theatre Company.

The evening is clearly a recreation of the famous readings given by Dickens and where better for him to do so than in a large upstairs room with its own bar at The George Inn in Borough High Street? Dickens mentions the pub in Little Dorrit. The show has references to The Borough, London Bridge and his father's time in prison nearby. It opens with with a description of young days in the blacking factory to which the young Dickens trudged over the toll gated Southwark Bridge.

The Sparkler of Albion, created from the letters and works of Dickens, is in its 16th year having been staged at Dickens' former house in Bloomsbury as well as touring Britain. There have been three American tours which included a performance in New York's Merchant's House Museum. The late Geoffrey Harris played Dickens for the first 13 years making it Britain's longest running one man show. John Tallents followed before Lloyd Lee took over for the Southwark season.

Lee offers an intimate and at first conversational show taking the audience from the birth in Portsmouth to scenes of London by way of The Pickwick Papers (where the inn scene is probably The George), Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop and other classics.

Having won and held the audience's attention with sometimes amusing impersonations in Act I, Lee then abandons his chair for a series of dramatic readings. This is a unique two hour show which should appeal to those who love old London as well as any Dickens experts who will not be disappointed.

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