Revised Canadian Solo Show, Charlie Chaplin, Merges Tramp's Art and Politics | Playbill

News Revised Canadian Solo Show, Charlie Chaplin, Merges Tramp's Art and Politics
Filmmaker Charlie Chaplin's artistic process around the time he was creating the 1940 picture, "The Great Dictator," is explored in the newly revised multimedia play, Charlie Chaplin Goes to War, Feb. 1-17 in British Columbia.
Simon Bradbury in Charlie Chaplin Goes to War at the Gateway Theatre.
Simon Bradbury in Charlie Chaplin Goes to War at the Gateway Theatre. Photo by David Cooper

Gateway Theatre presents the British Columbia premiere of the one-man play by Simon Bradbury (who plays Chaplin) and Dan Kamin.

The work was seen in earlier productions at Ontario's Shaw Festival (as Chaplin: The Trial of Charles Spencer Chaplin, Esq. in 2002) and at Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre (in 2005). It has now been revised and expanded for B.C. audiences.

Simon Johnston directs this black comedy, "a multi-media extravaganza based on the collision of art and politics that occurred when Charlie Chaplin created his classic film 'The Great Dictator.'"

According to production notes, "Intended to illustrate Hitler's lust for world domination to an as-yet-uninvolved American public, Chaplin used comedy to speak out. Filming is going well until Chaplin finds himself facing his two most famous screen creations, Hynkel and the Tramp, both vying for their creator's attention and both convinced that their world view is the correct one."

Bradbury stated, "In the play, Chaplin is forced to face the dark and light sides of his comedic art, between artistic purity and moral responsibility." Bradbury was a major player for 16 seasons at Canada's Shaw Festival. Co-writer Dan Kamin performs worldwide for theatres, colleges and symphony orchestras. He created the physical comedy sequences for the films "Chaplin" and "Benny and Joon," and trained Robert Downey, Jr. and Johnny Depp for their starring performances in those pictures.

Costumes and scenery are based on an original design by David Boechler. Music is by Paul Sportelli. Video design by Simon Clemo. Original sound design is by Trevor Hughes and sound assembly is by Ron Way. Lighting design is by Del Surjik.

"The Great Dictator" (1940) was Chaplin's first all-talkie feature following his international success as a silent film actor, writer and director. In the movie satire about Hitler, he played dual roles — a Jewish barber in a ghetto, and dictator Adenoid Hynkel.

For tickets and information about Gateway, in Richmond, B.C., visit or call (604) 270-1812.


Theatre writers and composers have used movie legend Chaplin as the main character in stage shows for years.

As recently as fall 2006, the musical Behind the Limelight, by composer-lyricist Christopher Curtis, appeared in the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

It's one of a number of Chaplin-inspired musicals, including Chaplin the Musical, with book, music and lyrics by Anthony Newley, who played the lead in developmental productions that did not end up making a big splash (this despite the late Newley's famously Chaplinesque persona on and off stage).

Another unrelated musical, Chaplin, A Memory as Entertainment, by librettist Ernest Kinoy, composer Roger Anderson and lyricist Lee Goldsmith, was acclaimed in Miami and won the Carbonell Award in South Florida in 1994. It refracts the early life and rise of Chaplin through an original score that recalls English music hall and other entertainment styles of the early 20th century. The show, which at one time was Broadway-aimed, was seen in a refreshed version in Sarasota, FL, in 2001. Visit

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