David Pomeranz walked on stage and did something unusual. Instead of simply beginning his one-man show, Chaplin: A Life In Concert, he stood centre-stage and explained why he was doing it.
Apparently, his dad is a very stoic man but by chance one day the boy and his dad watched a Charlie Chaplin movie on TV and it had them both in tears of laughter and sharing a love for the comic genius formed a bond between them, which remains to this day.
The actual show begins in 1972 as the elderly comic is lead into his dressing room before receiving an Honorary Academy Award. He falls asleep and we are taken back to 1894 for a linear journey of Chaplin’s private and professional life until the auteur wakes up 100 minutes later in that same dressing room.
The show starts well enough. A backdrop is used to put the time-line and the major events and people of Chaplin’s story in context using pictures from Chaplin’s life, loves, work and tawdry newspaper articles.
For most of the show Pomeranz sits at his piano playing, singing and acting out both Chaplin and the people central to his personal life and career.
The early songs are reasonable but this show gets inexorably worse as it goes along. Tedium sets in and the songs don’t help. One example being “there are too many words in the world . . . nothing will silence my heart”. It’s not even so bad it’s funny – it’s simply mediocre.
None of it is the fault of Pomeranz the performer. He works hard and it is hard work but he single-handedly prevents this show from a total collapse. The songs and the script are both jam-packed full of clunky minutiae. A calendar of events that is just boring. Pomeranz is certainly gifted and he needs to be for this role. It is exhaustive and requires all of his performing ability.
The show ends with Pomeranz turning his back to the audience singing, “happiness is the greatest gift of all” to a classic picture of ‘the Tramp’ on the backdrop. By the end of this show none of the audience are happy.
When the house lights came up Pomeranz was greeted with polite but unenthusiastic applause. I’ve never seen an elderly audience so completely drained of life by a show before. Pomeranz and his audience deserve better as does Charlie Chaplin.
The audience shuffled out of the room in silence and I noted there were about 4 people in the foyer after the show seeking autographs – the smallest number I have ever seen for any artist at this year's Cabaret Festival.
If you want to know the genius of Charlie Chaplin stay at home and watch his movies with your family, friends, lovers and others. You will be richer for the experience.