The Strange Tale Of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel at Minerva Theatre, Chichester: 'It’s good – but it’s not great'

I’m one of a generation who spent the mornings of their school Summer holidays watching Stan and Ollie do their thing in quivering black-and-white; I love them still, to this day.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 9:31 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 9:39 am
The Strange Tale Of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Picture by Hugo Glendinning

Charlie Chaplin, on the other hand, I never quite got.

Interestingly, in Told By An Idiot’s touring show at the Minerva in Chichester, which tells the story of Chaplin and Laurel’s first experience of America, it was the other way round.

While I couldn’t quite connect with Jerone Marsh-Reid and Nick Haverson’s Stan and Ollie, Amalia Vitale’s Chaplin was a thing of beauty.

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The study and effort that has clearly been put into her performance is theatrically thrilling; her movement, in particular, paints Chaplin in fine detail – carefully observed, spectacularly recreated and the whole performance as smooth as silk.

On the other hand, if I didn’t know that Marsh-Reid and Haverson were playing Stan and Ollie I would probably never have guessed – until Haverson gave a fine rendition of Ollie’s tie-twiddling.

Don’t get me wrong – their performances are engaging and well-crafted and well done, but Stan-and-Ollie-lite. On the other hand, Haverson’s performance as Fred Karno was spot-on.

The whole 90-minutes is played like a silent film – a nice conceit – and Sara Alexander’s piano-accompaniment is superb both in its execution and its ability to tell the story.

It’s good – but it’s not great.

Until Saturday.