Writer: Neil Warhurst
Reviewer: Rosie Revell
They say truth is stranger than fiction. One of the strangest stories out there is the true story of the abduction of Charlie Chaplin’s dead body from his Swiss grave in 1978. Goofus, an exciting new theatre company, present this story as their first ever tour and it is an interesting mix of fantasy, comedy, puppetry, shadow play and absorbing physicality.
Two impoverished motor mechanics Stefan (Paul Barnhill) and Alek (Guy Hargreaves) decide the only way to make their fortune and win back Stefan’s wife Sylvie (Lindsay Allen) is to kidnap Charlie Chaplin’s corpse and hold his widow to ransom. What they don’t bargain on is Oona Chaplin’s (Allen again) unwillingness to bargain for the body. What follows is a zany, madcap, bizarre hour of theatre that resonates all the more because of its basis in truth.
The cast of three hurtle through the story at breakneck speed, but it is done with such fun that it is hard not to get swept along with the pace of the caper unfolding before the audience’s eyes. Barnhill’s Stefan channels his best Brian Blessed to become the gold digging pantomime villain we are supposed to love to hate, but the character is so difficult to like and over the top he really has his work cut out. Hargreaves’ Alek is more sympathetic and adorable and he injects enviable physicality to the rôle. The set is virtually none -existent but the sheer effectiveness of the cast to inhabit the space is impressive.
The show, at times could be very funny but there is a genuine air of rush about the show which means the quality suffers and any momentum gained is lost. The puppetry and shadow play offer much but delivers surprisingly little mainly because the actors stand in the way of the light or hold the maquettes incorrectly and so obscure the scene and inevitably the effect they were going for. Props get dropped/knocked and while the cast improvise and manage to keep things moving it is a real shame. This is a new show which will undoubtedly improve as it is performed. This aside, Taking Charlie is still well worth investing an evening in.
Runs until: Wednesday 9th April 2014