City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Pip Utton Retrospective: Chaplin Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 30 August 2009

Pip Utton: Chaplin
Show details
New Town Theatre
Pip Utton Retrospective presented by Universal Arts
Running time: 
Geoff Bullen (director), Pip Utton (writer).
Pip Utton (Charlie Chaplin).

It's not yet 3am on Christmas morning, 1977 - everyone is still sleeping.  We are about to share Charlie Chaplin's last hour.

As he take us through his life and work we will discover that the cult of celebrity is nothing new.  It's a rags to riches story that takes us from the poor house to stardom, but also sheds light on a love/hate relationship not only with fame but also with money, his audience and, most tellingly, his most successful creation - The Little Tramp.

"You would rather see Charlie", says the elderly Chaplin in a quavering voice - "I am somewhat lacrimous".  This is at the heart of the difference between character and creator.  Chaplin was known to be melancholy and serious in interviews - one early example being titled "The Hamlet-Like Nature of Charlie Chaplin".  While he became the most famous man of his age and could make everybody laugh he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and aligned his work with not only Shakespeare but also important philosophers such as Nietzsche.  Even now however he is in danger of being overshadowed, as the Little Tramp wants to be heard, needs to tell the truth.  To dispel the myths about his parents, his string of young conquests, his political leanings, his relationship to America and to the film-going public.

This is a more gentle work than some of Utton's other solo portrayals, but it still exercises the audience's grey matter, inviting them to think about Chaplin's actions and motives.  Various Chaplin quotes are intertwined with the dialogue and there are lovely metaphorical details - such as the fact that Chaplin now stands before us in worn out socks although he equated success with hand-made boots, which he wore long after they were fashionable.

The production is classic Pip Utton, with his trademark on-stage transformation and skilfulness in weaving the audience into the performance.  Some of the changes of voice feel a little rushed and the use of film, while clever, could be a bit slicker, but it's a fabulous performance and you have to remind yourself that it's an actor before you and not the great man himself.

Charlie Chaplin said, "Movies are a fad.  Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage." - when it comes to Pip Utton, you can only agree.

To mark twenty years of Universal Arts at the Fringe, Pip Utton is presenting a retrospective of his five solo performances - Adolf, Resolution, Bacon, Chaplin and Hancock's Last Half Hour.

Times: 24 and 30 August, 1.00pm.