The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel Review

Icons of comedy, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, are magnificently paid homage to in Told By An Idiot's show The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.

The basis of the tale is of Chaplin and Laurel who shared a boat from the UK to New York in 1910 as part of Fred Karno's music hall troupe. This may be the central plot but the production is mostly told in short stories through various moments in the two stars lives. We're randomly thrown around with no logical order or sense.

Amalia Vitale as Charlie Chaplin. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

This is clearly a field Told By An Idiot specialise in. Writer and Director, Paul Hunter, explains in the programme that the company are "fascinated by the deconstruction of an iconic figure and the idea of creating a 'true fantasy' has always appealed". Their mission to create this fantasy and shine an unusual light on these showbiz legends works brilliantly.

It's told mostly in mime, aided by a few projected captions, but also with the addition of a couple of songs performed by the cast. Zoe Rahman's piano and drum score is an effective undercurrent to the action. Sara Alexander (who also plays Chaplin's mother) is a tremendous pianist and whilst she's slightly offstage she never missed a beat.

Ioana Curelea's multi-layered set is a wonderful creation. Taking us from the ship, to the theatre or even to the Savoy Hotel. Curelea's design really enables all the mad-cap slapstick comedy to flourish. Physical comedy consultant Jos Houben's work with the company allows them to create hilarious moments of comedy.

Jerone Marsh-Reid, Amalia Vitale and Nick Haverson. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

An outstanding Amalia Vitale excellently portrays Chaplin, she nails some of his iconic mannerisms perfectly including his walk. You can't take your eye off her the whole time as you don't want to miss anything she does. She is constantly creating little moments of magic even with the slightest of movement.

Jerone Marsh-Reid gives a great turn as Laurel (and numerous other roles). His gangly figure is a great contract to Vitale's petite Chaplin. The pair bounce off each other tremendously well. Laurel does take more a background seat in the tale as we feature more on Chaplin.

The lead performances are often in danger of being completely upstaged by a superb Nick Haverson. He portrays a myriad of roles, ranging from Fred Karno to Chaplin's Dad and even to Oliver Hardy. He is an actor with such a great eye for comedy. He emotes with his facial expressions with such a high skill. He is a pure joy to watch and his energy keeps the other cast members on their toes.

Whilst certain moments that are included are a bit baffling, for example, I'm not sure why we go back to Chaplin's birth or even the death of Oliver Hardy, those aside this is a joyous 90 minutes. It's clearly created with such an affection for the two central stars. A Strange Tale it may be but a richly uplifting one too.

Rating - ★★★★ - a brilliantly madcap slapstick celebration of two showbiz legends.

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel continues at Northampton's Royal and Derngate until Saturday 21st March 2020. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk for booking details.

Sara Alexander, Amalia Vitale, Jerone Marsh-Reid and Nick Haverson. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

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