Have you ever seen Charlie Chaplin’s classic film The Great Dictator? Eighty years after it was released, it feels terrifyingly current. We get a glimpse of why with the inclusion of its final speech in Arrows & Traps’ latest offering.
In Chaplin: Birth of a Tramp, writer and director Ross McGregor tells a compelling story of not just how Charlie Chaplin found his voice physically, moving from Hollywood’s silent film era to the talkies, but politically as well, culminating with The Great Dictator‘s anti-fascism call to arms.
What a sad business, being funny – Limelight (1952)
The play is also an amazing rags-to-riches story, a touching family portrait, an examination of the creative process and the duality of laughter and pathos. And it’s beautifully rendered by the ensemble of six, with Conor Moss and Lucy Ioannou often mirroring one another as, respectively, the adult narrator Chaplin and the mute, all-seeing child who morphs into his iconic comic creation “The Little Tramp”.
They’re joined by Clare Aster, Toby Wynn-Davies, Benjamin Garrison and Laurel Marks as other family members and film figures, all of whom participate in a series of pop-infused clowning sequences that knit together jumps in time.
I was joined by Ross McGregor and the company to discuss the production with an audience full of many Chaplin aficionados and Arrows & Traps fans for a lively discussion about Charlie Chaplin and his family, the nature of comedy and tragedy, the rigours of clowning and more.
Watch the full Q&A below. And check out the speech from The Great Dictator too. It will give you shivers.
Chaplin: Birth of a Tramp continues at London’s Brockley Jack Theatre until 22 February 2020, before touring from 10 April to 17 June.
Event photography by Peter Jones.
Production photography by Ocular.
Chaplin vs Hitler
The Great Dictator was released in 1940. How much does this famous final speech by Charlie Chaplin sound like it could apply in 2020?