Two new theatre productions coming to HOME Manchester

Two of the UK’s most innovative theatre companies, Gecko and Mind the Gap, have joined forces to present a little space, commissioned by HOME Manchester and The Place, London, which opens a UK tour at HOME, Wednesday 12 – Saturday 15 February 2020. 

The devised piece explores what happens when people connect and disconnect from each other whether through choice or through isolation. Drawing on the performers’ own experiences, a little space uses imagery, sound, language and physicality to portray the needs, desires and fears of the subject. 

Bradford-based Mind the Gap has an internationally respected methodology and approach to its work, and is considered a beacon for learning disability arts and artists; a little space is their first physical theatre production. 

Award-winning Ipswich-based physical theatre company Gecko has toured globally to audiences of over 200,000; a little space is their second associate production following on from the international success of The Dreamer in 2016. 

“It is a great pleasure to be collaborating with Mind the Gap,” says Director Rich Rusk of Gecko. “They are a company we have enormous respect and admiration for. Together we have created a piece about people; about the positives and negatives of living and being alone. 

“The stories unfold in a space that everyone will recognise so it has given us an opportunity to really make the ordinary extraordinary, using a blend of theatre, choreography and dynamic sound design.” 

Mind the Gap’s Charli Ward is equally delighted to be working in this co- production: “Our recent productions – the critically acclaimed ZARA and Mia – each put learning disability at the heart of the story, and a little space brings the artists’ experiences to the fore but is fundamentally about us all.” 

In 1910 the unknown Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail for New York as part of Fred Karno’s famous music hall troupe. On the journey, Charlie and Stan shared a cabin and then spent two years together touring North America, with Stan as Charlie’s understudy. 

Stan returned home, later finding success with his soulmate Oliver Hardy. Charlie developed his Little Tramp character and within five years became one of the most famous figures in the world. In Charlie Chaplin’s highly detailed autobiography, Lancashire-born Stan Laurel is never mentioned, yet Stan talked about Charlie all his life. 

Playing fast and loose with the facts, looking at an unknown period in comic history when two maverick imaginations collided for a brief time, and with an 

original piano score composed by Mercury Award Nominee Zoe Rahman played live each night, The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, is no nostalgic bio-drama. Instead, writer and director Paul Hunter has created a hilarious and deeply moving homage to two men who changed the world of comedy forever. 

The cast comprises Sara Alexander, returning to HOME after appearing in Bryony Kimmings’ A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer in 2016; Nick Haverson, a regular on TV in series such as Scott and Bailey and Casualty; newcomer Jerone Marsh-Reid, who has a background in breakdancing and brings it to the production, plays Stan Laurel; and Amalia Vitale, recently heard as the voice of Lula in Farmageddon, the recent Shaun the Sheep film, as Charlie Chaplin.

“As a company who has consistently sought to inhabit the space between laughter and pain,” says Paul Hunter. “We were intrigued to uncover a hidden and poignant chapter of comedy history.

“In some ways we set out to create a comically unreliable tribute to two extraordinary artists. We were determined to value fiction over fact, fantasy over reality, and shine a very unusual light on a pair of show business legends.”

The events in this play are fictional. This play is certainly not endorsed by the estates of Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, or anyone else for that matter!

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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