Theatre review *****
By Kelly Wickham
The Strange Tale Of Charlie Chaplin And Stan Laurel
Until January 25
Minerva Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester PO19 6AP
Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail for New York in 1910 as part of Fred Karno’s famous music hall troupe.
Charlie and Stan shared a cabin and then spent two years together touring North America, with Stan as Charlie’s understudy.
Both later found fame, Stan meeting soulmate Oliver Hardy and Charlie becoming one of the most famous figures in the world.
In Charlie Chaplin’s highly detailed autobiography Stan Laurel is never mentioned yet Stan talked about Charlie all his life.
Amalia Vitale is absolutely incredible playing Chaplin, from facial expressions, slapstick acting, instrument playing and tap dancing. She steals the show with her ability to keep the audience on their toes with the plot.
The plot is the problem, as we are transported back and forth across times rewinding, fast-forwarding and possibly re-writing parts of history.
While the acting is superb and there are plenty of laughs and audience participation, it’s not always clear on the point of the scene or what is going on.
Nick Haverson is a man of many talents and playing multiple roles on the night, it’s probably a good thing there are no words to remember with all the parts he plays.
His performance of Oliver Hardy was probably an audience favourite, the actions and facial expressions really took it to the next level complete with a cushion up his shirt and a duck-tape moustache, especially when a double act with Jerone Marsh-Reid as Stan Laurel. Although Jerone is slightly upstaged by Haverson’s Hardy, he is still a fabulous actor, portraying the way in which Stan looked up to and doted on Chaplin.
Jerone also played a bell boy extremely well his gangly physique being transformed with a simple roll of the shoulders and a confused expression plastered don his face.
The show wouldn’t be complete without Sara Alexander as the pianist, cleverly linking in to the show with her portrayal of Charlie’s mother and interacting with the actors on stage through music, expressions and an occasional prop.