Respected character actor Geoffrey Harris played the role of Charles Dickens to great acclaim in the Argonaut Theatre Company’s production of The Sparkler of Albion. The production, which was staged at the Dickens House Museum in Doughty Street, London, became Britain’s longest running one-man show and lasted for more than 13 years.
Harris’ vibrant portrayal of the novelist was something of a tour de force and he was often compared with actors such as Emlyn Williams and Micheal MacLiammoir. Presented in what was once Dickens’ own library, he brought many of the writer’s most colourful characters such as Mr Pickwick, Fagin and David Copperfield to exhuberant life. The highlight of Harris’ two-hour performance was undoubtably Bill Sikes’ chilling murder of Nancy from Oliver Twist – an appropriate choice given its composition in Dicken’s very library.
The award-winning production, written by David Parker and John Greco, also toured Europe and America during the nineties and led to Harris appearing as Dickens on many television programmes.
Born January 15, 1944, Harris first performed in public at the age of seven singing solos in choir festivals. He also learnt the trombone and cello and played in several youth orchestras.
He made his acting debut in his early twenties in a production of The Boyfriend and later began appearing in repertory around the UK in plays such as Habeas Corpus, How the Other Half Loves and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.
He toured Europe in productions of Look Back in Anger, The Taming of the Shrew, Pygmalion and many other shows before appearing in The Sparkler of Albion in 1991. He also appeared in several television cameos, radio plays and commercials.
Harris and his second wife Joan Hooley were both inveterate world travellers and also much loved members of the original Green Room Club in Adam Street, London. Always immaculately and stylishly dressed the couple were known for their warmth and hospitality and numbered many members of the acting profession among their friends.
Harris died after a long battle with cancer on December 20, aged 60. Joan survives him, as does his brother Steven and his four children from a former marriage.