Following a sell-out run in 2020, Told by an Idiot productions returns to Wilton’s Music Hall as part of the London International Mime Festival, with their highly acclaimed 80-minute non-stop show Charlie and Stan, an utterly ludicrous tribute to the greatest comedy duo that ‘almost’ was.
Based an idea by Irene Cotton with additional material from the Told by an Idiot company, the show has an original piano score composed by MOBO Award winning jazz musician Zoe Rahman. The piece plays fast and loose with historical facts, and the ‘plot’ is developed though as a series of silent cinema style sketches which are interspersed with intertitles. Completely wordless except for the songs, the whole evening is a riotous masterclass in mime, slapstick comedy, and pratfalls.
The unknown Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail for New York in 1910 as part of Fred Karno’s famous music hall troupe. They shared a cabin as they travelled across the Atlantic, and then spent two years working together touring North America, with Stan as Charlie’s understudy.
Stan never stopped talking about his time with working with Charlie but Chaplin never mentions Laurel in his biography. So what happened? This is the imagined version of events. “We make no attempt to put reality on stage,” declare Told by an Idiot. It is a mime show, but not as we know it.
Although the 1910 voyage provides the backbone for most of the sketches, time manoeuvres chaotically throughout the piece, as it depicts the transatlantic journey to America, Chaplin’s father as a drunken music hall singer and his mother being sectioned in an asylum, along with a flash forwards to the imagined meeting of Ollie and Stan that results in the pair clog dancing to hip-hop beats. The routine, choreographed by ZooNation’s Nuno Sandy, only heightens the evenings supreme silliness.
Tightly Written and directed by Paul Hunter, Charlie and Stan seems right at home in the beautifully restored Victorian Wilton’s Music Hall. Danielle Bird is magical as Chaplin. While capturing the famous waddling gait of the Little Tramp and his chaotic slapstick, Bird can just as easily switch to pathos to conquer the audiences heart. As Laurel, the rubber like Jerone Marsh-Reid, gives a frenetic performance as he contorts, bounces and dances his way through his role. Nick Haverson also morphs convincingly into his many roles as Fred Karno, Chaplin’s father and Oliver Hardy, while Sara Alexander plays the score beautifully.
Charlie and Stan is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 4th February 2023