I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre to review Chaplin – The Charlie Chaplin Story. Of course I have heard the name Charlie Chaplin and I knew he was famous for his bowler hat and cane. But of the actual man, I knew nothing, so being the film geek that I am I was interested to see what I would learn about the first British icon of cinema.
The play opened with a musical number setting the scene for this heart-warming and powerful tale. This fascinating story weaves through Chaplin’s early journey as a young boy through the dark streets of Victorian Vaudeville London to the glitz of early Hollywood. The play kept flashing back to his childhood, which was a little confusing at first but once I got my head around the characters; everything started to fall into place.
Rachael Wood (Emmerdale) was exceptional as Hannah Chaplin, Charlie’s mother, with strong vocals and presence. Even though she was desperate to save her family; she was able to teach her sons the importance of following their dreams, teaching them that if you have nothing, you have nothing to lose!
Steven Arnold (Coronation Street) plays Keystone Studios boss Mack Sennett, as well as Sydney Chaplin, Charlie’s brother. He seemed to be a little dry to start but warmed into the roles; maybe it was the fact this simple white shirt didn’t blend well with the rest of the costumes and set.
The younger Charlie was played by Helena Gullan who was mainly muted, but had a strong energy and presence throughout. The older Charlie was brilliantly played by Bryan Hodgson. I didn’t want him to stop, his facial expressions, the exquisite charm in his voice, his mannerisms, he was simply divine; he is a star in the making!
Tristan Teller also has more than one role; he added the comedy value to the show and was just as much a lead as Chaplin was with his brilliance.
I loved the old London grit that was injected into the show, how easily it went from Chaplin’s early years in London and workhouse conditions to the glitz of showbiz in Hollywood as he follows his dreams and stood by what he believe in, himself.
As well as incredibly talented actors, they were musicians too, as they played the piano, cello, and violin on stage effortlessly creating each scene themselves which added character to the show. The simple touch of having the instruments on stage, as well as some actors playing more than one role, made you forget that this was only a cast of six.
As Hannah Chaplin said, “If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose” and that is how I felt about this show, I had nothing to lose by going but I gained a thoroughly entertaining evening with an incredibly talented cast that will remain with me. Bravo.
The show will be touring until Sunday 24th July. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/search/?search=chaplin++.