British Theatre Guide
I think Pip Utton is an alien, a protean creature which can turn into anything it desires! I've seen him as Tony Hancock, Adolf Hitler and Francis Bacon, as well as a Roy Orbison lookalike and Joseph the father of Jesus, and he was utterly convincing as all of them. He even managed to look like his subjects. And this year he takes on the old Charlie Chaplin and does it again.
He really is, as the Guardian described him, "the master of the one man show" and the young pretenders (of whom there are many at every Fringe) should take time out to see his show (or shows, for he is repeating his Adolf yet again this year) to learn how it should be done.
Fittingly for a show dealing with a star of the movies, he has gone multimedia and created filmed sequences into which the live Chaplin steps - and loses thirty or so years in the process.
He takes us inside Chaplin's mind, exploring his memories and feelings, and we come away feeling that we really understand the man, that we really have spent an hour in his company. There can be no greater praise than that.
www. one4review .com
We meet the old Charlie in the early hours of what will be his last day on earth. We spend time with him and his alter ego Charlie Chaplin. They both take us through a potted history of their lives.
Pip Uton appears as Charlie at 88 years old who just wants to be left alone, as he starts to talk to us Chaplin, the silent clown, the little tramp, starts to interject until Charlie puts on the full makeup.
We get a history from both points of view then see a short silent film which cleverly includes live action as well as the film. At the end we imagine the death of Charlie and see Chaplin waddling off into the sunset as we do at the end of all of his films.
Very cleverly written and beautifully directed with close attention to detail. As usual if you go to see Pip Utton perform you know you are in for some high quality theatre. This gentleman is one of the best examples of the one-man show to regularly perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Brighton Magazine
There is one actor on the stage, and one character, Charles Chaplin.
But he is ominously divided into two characters, two facets of his own mind; the Man and the Clown.
Darkly similar and curiously different, the pulling and pushing of these two inner beings forms the axis around which this wonderful new one man play spins inexorably to its namesakes' destruction.
The play is called "Chaplin" and it is performed by the master of the genre, Pip Utton, at the Nightingale Theatre above the Grand Central pub in Brighton, as a Fringe event.
Using all his masterly talents, Pip Utton, has created a masterpiece of the genre; it is a fascinating, funny and often menacing autobiographical tale of the life of Charles Chaplin.
Chaplin, the man, shuffles slowly onto the stage - bent, and clothed in the old fashioned clothes that form a metaphor for his own outmoded ideas and personal delusions.
Addressing the audience 'he' both craves our attention and is suspicious of our intent.
He hates these "guests', but still needs us we feel, like an addict needs drugs.
By this masterly theatrical device we feel drawn in to events on stage.
Disengagement is not an option for this audience; we are "here', included, whether we like it or not.
Chaplin the Man, slowly begins, on stage, to put on the make up, wig and clothing that we associate with Chaplin the Clown; the character we all recognise from his early silent films. As he does so, a change begins to come over him.
The domination of the Man ends and the era of the Clown begins.
No longer the weak, petty minded little man whose recollections of the past are so confused (he tells several conflicting stories of his upbringing for example), we now have an entirely different creature.
This manifestation of Chaplin's mind seems to be everything he is not. Its fame has never faded, it knows its past without any ambiguity, it is born for fame and fame it will always have. "It is my photo on the T-shirts" it brags.
The truth is, of course, that Chaplin loved his money, loved his women, but wanted above all fame; recognition for his work. Instead of this it was taken over by the "Clown'. "I know it's him you've all come to see" cries the old man, almost tearfully, before the Clown begins to take control again.
As our minds need our bodies and our bodies' need our minds, Man and Clown need each other. Like an old couple who loath each other, but can never separate through fear of obscurity, so the man and clown are bound together, fighting desperately for control, spinning through eternity.
Incorporated into this play is the use of audio-visual material. In a master class of how to use such technology, he shows us how not how to hide weak production values under a techno-smokescreen (as so many do), but how to enhance strong ideas further, while adding genuine artistic value.
A screen sits at the back of the stage. On it is projected a film, starring Utton but created in the old fashioned silent screen mode, black and white, slightly wobbly.
The genius of this is in its timing, where Utton walks behind the projection screen just as he enters the actual screen; this all gives the impression that he has somehow "walked' onto the film.
Not only is the film superb, but the sense of stage and film being united together has been achieved here with a subtle power and precision that beats anything that I have seen for a long time. Usually, even in the best productions, the audio-visuals still seem a bit intrusive, even still separate somehow from the live action; but not here.
In a little touch of playful genius, there is even a suitcase thrown up into the air on screen that is mirrored by one thrown by Utton that lands back out onto the stage.
It is worth remembering that, as ever with Pip Utton, there are clever touches of great humour in this play. Clever, because the jokes are often far darker than we realise at the time they are told and great, because they are not simply "gags' but rooted firmly in the fabric of the play.
Even as the make-up is slowly wiped away, the Clown torments his maker like some kind of malevolent Pinocchio. There is something Faustian about Clown and Man's relationship.
I have always found something very dark about clowns and clowning per say, and dare to suggest that Utton does too. It is like he has started with the Clown and worked backwards to reveal his subject in the process of this plays construction.
In the final scene when Chaplin talks of being asleep we can't help feeling that he is dead and that we have been listening to the ravings of a ghost, even in death the clown still comes back to haunt him.
In the play, Utton has Chaplin say that he just wanted his films to be "Beautiful." Ironically, this is just what Utton has created despite all its dark revelations and inner menace, a thing of real theatrical beauty.
I want to see it again.
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.