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By David Fox twitter.com/DavidFoxTheatre
The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel at
Written and directed by Paul Hunter
You have all heard of Charlie Chaplin. You have all heard of Stan Laurel. You have probably seen their hit films of the 1920’s and ‘30s. What you may not know is the story of their friendship before they were famous, while working for Fred Karno’s Circus before leaving for fame and fortune in Hollywood! This new production created by Told by an Idiot tells a version of this story in a way which is clever, bold, and entertaining.
The show describes itself as playing fast and loose with the facts and is certainly no straightforward bio-drama. Their story was told through song, music, and most appropriately mime – mimicking the style of the old silent comedies that made them famous! There were pratfalls, inter-titles, over-exaggerated mannerisms, all adding up to a wonderful piece of physical theatre.
While the main story centred around Charlie and Stan’s trip by boat to New York, the story cleverly used flashbacks to show elements such as Chaplin’s impoverished Victorian childhood, or Stan’s first meeting with Ollie. At times sad, at times poignant, but most of the time clever and very funny. I sat with a smile on my face for 90 minutes, which just fled by.
The play boasts an exceptionally talented ensemble cast of four. One of the most entertaining aspects of the production was the original piano score composed by Mercury Award Nominee Zoe Rahman which was played live by Sarah Alexander (who also played Charlie’s mother) and was evocative of the style of the silent movies. Jerone Marsh-Reid was Stan, blinking and full of nervous energy, he is an excellent physical comedian. Nick Haverson was hilarious in many roles such as Charlie’s Dad, Oliver Hardy, and funniest of all when he was Fred Karno himself! Sara Alexander was simply amazing as Charlie, having the expressions, mannerisms, and famous Chaplin walk down to a tee.
The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel was an absolute delight, and a fantastic piece of physical theatre, comedy and mime. There was even some excellent audience participation! A great reminder of two towering talents, and of films and comedy of times gone by.
If you are a fan of Chaplin, Stan and Ollie, or old fashioned music hall entertainment then this comes highly recommended!
The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel is at Birmingham Rep until 29th February. Book tickets here: birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/the-strange-tale-of-charlie-chaplin-and-stan-laurel.html
This isn’t a sponsored post.
When not writing for #BrumHour, David Fox spends his time wondering when Checkov is back on the midlands stage or is that Chekov?