Bringing the genius of Charlie Chaplin back to lifeBy Caroline Cook
October 11, 2012
The life of Charlie Chaplin will be explored in an original piece of theatre at South Hill Park.
Caroline Cook caught up with the man behind the moustache
If you take a walk along Hollywood Boulevard you’ll see marble and brass stars embedded into the pavement with the names and handprints of Hollywood’s biggest icons.
Spot Marilyn Monroe and up springs the image of a white dress billowing over a subway grate, or find Audrey Hepburn and you’ll think of a young woman in pearls standing outside Tiffany.
Images of the Hollywood greats are as iconic today as they were 60 years ago and none more so than the shuffling tramp with the moustache and cane – Charlie Chaplin.
Bracknell actor Clive Elkington is stepping into the shoes of the English actor – ranked 10th greatest male screen legend of all time by the American Film Institute – for The Man, The Myth, The Legend, at South Hill Park.
“The title is a bit of an explanation for the show,” explains Clive.
“You have the man who is basically my character.
“He is an actor and he wants to take inspiration from Charlie Chaplin and his life to try and make it himself.
“Then you have the myth which is him talking about the stories of Charlie Chaplin and all the stuff in the media that was or wasn’t true. And then the legend, of course, is Charlie Chaplin.”
After a difficult childhood, which saw the death of his father and the committal of his mother to an asylum, Charlie and his brother Sydney were left to fend for themselves.
The boys took to the stage, with Charlie making his professional debut as part of the Eight Lancashire Lads clog dancing troupe.
In 1914 he was called on by the New York Motion Picture Company after a member of the company had seen him perform on stage, and he made his film debut in Making A Living.
It wasn’t long before he starred as the iconic Tramp character in Kid Auto Races at Venice, with the dusty bowler hat, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and his well-known walk.
For Clive, it was that walk which inspired The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
“Someone made a passing comment once that a little walk I did reminded them of Charlie Chaplin so I went away, looked into him and began to appreciate his work and his comedy,” says Clive.
After deciding he wanted to do a show about the legendary film star Clive set about looking for a script, but it wasn’t an easy task.
“The whole process started last summer when I was searching for a show based on Charlie Chaplin and I couldn’t find one,” he says.
“Eventually I came across a writer who was a Charlie Chaplin biographer [JeTamme Derouet] and I contacted her and she wrote the script for me.
The more Clive began to find out about the actor the more he became intrigued by his world.
He was particularly surprised to learn about Chaplin’s political background which caused significant media controversy.
In the 1940s Chaplin made the satirical and deeply political film, The Great Dictator, attacking fascism and creating a dictator character called Adenoid Hynkle.
Although the film received five Academy Award nominations critics slammed its six-minute finale which saw Chaplin staring at the camera professing his personal beliefs.
A few years later Chaplin was caught up in further controversy, being accused of un-American activities as a suspected communist.
The country which made him, turned its back on him and took away his re-entry permit to the US while he was at a film premier in London.
However, Chaplin is still remembered as one of England and Hollywood’s biggest film stars.
A tribute was paid to him as part of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening ceremony, a significant event for Clive, as he was also performing in the ceremony.
At 24-years-old, the exact age the actor was when he made his film debut, Clive is looking forward to paying his own tribute to the legend, Charlie Chaplin.
- The Man, The Myth, The Legend is at South Hill Park from Thursday, October 11, to Saturday, October 13. To book visit www.southhillpark.org.uk.