The company “Told By an Idiot’s” production of Charlie and Stan tells the story of Stan Laurel’s early career as the understudy to Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin remained in America and became a super star of the cinema. But if that had not happened we would have never have had the inspired comedy of Laurel and Hardy so maybe it all worked out for the best?
By Angie Millard
Performance photo by Manuel Harlan
The company offers a glimpse of what could have been and Director Paul Hunter includes fantasy and fictional episodes in the piece. The action is set on a boat in 1910 where Fred Karno’s music hall troupe are sailing from the UK to New York.
The show is framed as a silent movie filled with mimed episodes and musical accompaniments, some singing and audience participation: Vaudeville meets silent movies.
There is gender and colour blind casting and the scenes played out represent Chaplin’s early childhood. Danielle Bird plays his mother in an early cinema Victorian melodrama episode as well as accompanying the action on piano throughout, others join in on the drums where appropriate.
Jerone Marsh Reid is a lithe enactment of Laurel and Nick Haverson recreates Hardy as a perfect foil. His transformation from another role involving a pillow for padding and use of duct-tape as a moustache is inspired. There are brilliantly executed physical routines using the ingenious trap doors, ladders and insets on board the ship which is Joanna Curelea’s set. We glimpse circus tricks in the use of suitcases which house inumerable props and, of course, the judicious use of a frying pan. This is physical Theatre at its best and the 80 minutes duration of the show is a perfect length of time. It is an ensemble piece played with perfect timing and slapstick comedy.
Zoe Rahman composed the musical score which was played by Sara Alexander and on one occasion by a member of the audience!
It’s good fun and an unusual theatrical experience.
Charlie and Stan is being performed at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 18 February 2023.
Writer and Director: Paul Hunter
Designer: Ionna Curelea
Lighting Designer: Ben Cowens
Zoe Rahmen : Composer
Physical comedy consultant: Jos Houben