There is something inherently theatrical about the slapstick comedy/silent film period of over a hundred years ago. It is a time when effects and resources were limited in Hollywood causing the entertainment to come solely from the performers on screen. However Told by an Idiot return to The REP to celebrate this glorious form through the fictionalised meeting of icons of the screen; Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.
Writer and director Paul Hunter has completely jam packed this (virtually) word-less play with some of the finest slapstick and physical comedy to tell this utterly bonkers story. But essentially it works almost as a dance that is so intricately choreographed design to surprise us and bring a fresh laugh with every movement thanks to Nuna Sandy (of ZooNation)'s choreography and the physical comedy from Jos Houbden.
But it also the sheer energy and boundless professionalism from the cast that keeps this piece moving from A to B. It is phenomenal how these four performers can keep this style of silent comedy and slapstick going for 90 gloriously funny minutes without it getting repetitive or nothing short of pure brilliant fun. Amalia Vitale's performance as Charlie Chaplin is one that shines just as bright as he did himself alongside Jerone Marsh-Reid equally comical and wonderful performance as Stan Laurel (among a few other characters). Vitale and Marsh-Reid have perfectly captured some of the hints and subtleties to incorporate into their performances but also present us with something fresh thats purely designed to entertain us from the get-go. Nick Haverson likewise also shines and has all eyes on him in the many supporting characters such as Fred Karno, Oliver Hardy and Charlie' dad and later the butler. But a special mention must go to Sara Alexander who spends the majority of the evening (as well as playing Charlie's mother, Hannah Chaplin in a couple of scenes) performing some of the most incredible piano music. Not only does it provide some quintessential underscore for the silent style, composed by Zoe Rahman, but it also has a lot of character adding both comic effect in places as well as tension for the more dramatic parts.
The four of them have this wonderful ability to transport us to the busy locations within the story and with no doubt makes it look like they are having so much fun on Ioana Curelea's jungle gym-like set design, which is squeaky floorboards, trapdoors, a fireman pole and plenty of suitcases and lifeboat rings to give that early 1900's nautical feel.
Whether you grew up watching these sorts of films or not, there is a lot to be marveled at in this piece that will tickle your funny bone and be impressed by the highly energetic performances by the cast. It is nothing short of pure old-fashioned entertainment that is sure to bring a smile.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.