Mondays at CAMBRIDGE THEATRE, LONDON (MATILDA THEATRE)
Monday 24th July
Monday 31st July
Monday 7th August
Monday 14th August
Monday 21st August
Monday 28th August
BLACKPOOL WINTER GARDENS
Wednesday 30th August
Thursday 31st August
Friday 1st September
Saturday 2nd September
Jon Conway has created shows from Broadway to Beijing and London to Las Vegas. With 70 episodes of BBC TV comedy and having created five original West End shows, his current focus is producing large scale arena family shows, including Elf- The Musical.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Physical performance skills include sketch comedy, aerial trapeze, team acrobatics, music, art painting, breakdancing, roller skating, song and dance, mime, magic and illusion woven into a strong spoken narrative that flips between farce and pathos from a multi talented cast of eight performers.
The bulk of the comedy has been honed by the lead cast members during 200 live performances as ‘Crazy Comedy Company’ over the last 18 months with two seasons as headliners at both Butlins Holiday resorts, Viva Cabaret Room, Blackpool and Edinburgh Festival to audience and critical claim alike.
2022 EDINBURGH FESTIVAL
The show was originally produced at Edinburgh Festival in 2022 gaining great reviews.
5 STAR Derek Awards best actor nominated review said:
‘A Brilliant tribute of a bygone age. These two gems have been repolished. Jordan Conway is a clone of Charlie Chaplin.’
“Two on-screen legends merit two legendary performances. As Stan Laurel, Matt Knight shows off some of the party tricks that wowed the judges on BBC TV’s ‘Let It Shine’ where if memory serves (or rather if The Current Mrs Dan’s memory serves) he reached the semi-finals. There’s a depth to his portrait work on Laurel, a melancholy and personal uncertainty, the shadows of the limelight. Matt is a physical wonderworker, but he’s also a chuffing good character actor and one to watch in the coming years.
Watching Jordan (son of Jon) Conway play Chaplin is like having high tea at the Ritz astride a Harley-Davidson FXDR 114 (0-60 in approximately 2.5 seconds). The first thing I do when I’m back outside is message Angela Pearson of the ‘Talking Bottom’ podcast to ask if anyone is filming a Rik Mayall biopic and in need of a star. Jordan shares Mayall’s timing, his precision, his manic determination simply to be as funny as he can possibly be – in fact, funnier than anyone else could possibly be. Jordan matches Matt’s physicality (although no one could equal it). Their on-stage chemistry is as lively as things would get if you were caught deliberately puncturing the bouncy castle at Vinny Jones’ kid’s birthday party.”
ABOUT THE SHOW
Showbiz feuds are nothing new. Forget Chris Rock and Will Smith, forget William and Harry, this is the blockbuster feud of 100 years ago between the funniest and most famous people on the planet.
‘The Feud’ is the untold but true story of Laurel and Chaplin. Teenage best friends sharing a room for three years as they started their careers. Charlie star of the show and Stan his loyal understudy. Then, Chaplin is discovered by Hollywood and vows to help Stan if he makes it. With no explanation, Charlie ignored his best-friend and even when Stan eventually found fame, they never spoke again for twenty-five years.
A heart-breaking and hilarious spoken narrative explains ‘The Feud’ but this compelling story is transcended into something unique by a mix of slapstick and cirque suitable for a family audience. Every physical performing art is deployed from breath-taking aerial flying to knockabout acrobatics, from magical illusion to break-dancing.
THE FACTS BEHIND LAUREL AND CHAPLIN: THE FEUD
FRED KARNO – IMPRESSARIO WHO TEAMED CHAPLIN AND LAUREL IN HIS SHOWS
Frederick John Westcott (1866 – 1941), best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was an English theatre producer of music hall sketch comedy and pantomime. A famous and successful millionaire he died broke and forgotten.
Film producer Hal Roach “Fred Karno is not only a genius, he originated slapstick comedy. We in Hollywood owe much to him.
Both Chaplin and Laurel acknowledged the debt they owed him for giving him their break and teaching them so much. Given that Chaplin and Laurel largely wrote the rules for screen comedy, Karno can take credit for an influence over all of 20th century culture.
His most successful sketch was ‘Mumming Birds’ in America re-titled ‘A Night In An English Music Hall’. This sketch ran for forty years with revivals by Karno’s sons as late as the mid 1940s. The show was a show within show with a series of terrible music hall acts being heckled by a drunken Toff and a naughty schoolboy, sitting in theatre boxes. It was his performance as the drunken Toff which made Chaplin’s name and bought him to the attention of Mack Sennett at Keystone studios in America in 1912. Stan Laurel also appeared in Mumming Birds alongside Chaplin, they shared digs on the Karno tours of America in 1910 and 1912, and Laurel is often described as being Chaplin’s understudy. Although Laurel said this about himself, in truth Chaplin had no understudy, all the actors in a Karno troupe had to be able to cover for each other Chaplin included, he was no different to his fellow players. Laurel always recognised Chaplin’s brilliance and was quick to credit him – his description of himself as Chaplin’s understudy being a typical Laurel self effacing comment, Chaplin in contrast never acknowledged Laurel’s role in his early career.
Stan is also in the cast of the Karno show, but Chaplin is clearly the star turn.
[Promotional posters for “The Wow-Wows”, “A night in a London Secret Society”, “A night in a London Club”, “A night in English Music Hall”, “Mumming Birds” and “Football Match”]. Stan is in the cast of the show, but Chaplin is clearly the star turn. 
“A night in a London Club” toured in 1912; “A night in English Music Hall” was performed at the Majestic on 18 April 1911; in “Mumming Birds” Chaplin was playing the role of the drunk; “Football Match” was performed at the Empire Theatre in Oldham on 3 May. Fred Karno above Charlie. Stan manages to get billing on bottom right corner.
On deck of their first voyage to USA in 1910, Stan circled left, Charlie circled right. They would sail again in April 1912. Imagine if they had sailed on the Titanic that month!!!!
A rare day off on tour in Butte, USA, 1910 Stan middle left, Charlie middle right
Stan centre, Charlie right playing in Karno’s roller hockey team, 1912
Stan writing to a friend about Chaplin in October 1957. Personally typed by Stan confirming many of the facts in the show.
Chaplin and Laurel both held Karno in high regard, Stan Laurel said:
“Fred Karno didn’t teach Charlie and me all we know about comedy, he just taught us most of it. Above all he taught us to be supple and precise. Out of all that endless rehearsal and performance came Charlie Chaplin, the most supple and precise comedian of our time.”
Another letter personally typed by Stan in Nov 1961 noting his relationship with Chaplin:
Famously, Chaplin never referred to Stan in his 500 page biography, despite being in the same show and rooming with him for two years at the start of their careers. There is no known meeting of the two during the glory years of the 20s and 30’s when they were two of the few British stars in Hollywood and both comedy icons. There are many images of Chaplin with Houdini and Buster Keaton inset.
Charlie was a renowned Hollywood party goer and good friends with many stars like Houdini. He even formed United Artists studios with other big stars being the first to break the Holywood studio system. There is no known record that Stan and Charlie ever met again leading to the logical conclusion there must have been a silent feud where they avoided each other!
The comedy play ‘Laurel and Chaplin – The Feud’ seeks to explain why.
Fred Karno, the man who discovered Charlie Chaplin (and had an off-licence in Poole)
Bournemouth Echo report on the last years of Karno, now retired and financially ruined
The legendary showman Fred Karno – who also set Stan Laurel on the path to Hollywood fame – spent his later life in Poole and ran Lilliput Wine Stores.
Poole genealogist Roy Stockdill wrote to the Echo earlier this year to ask whether anyone could help identify where exactly the shop stood.
He heard back from Poole historian and former town clerk Ian Andrews, who had already researched Karno’s life and had a copy of a 1939 street directory. It established that Karno was then living above a ladies’ hairdresser at 294 Sandbanks Road. His off-licence at number 296 is now the estate agency EweMove.
Some of his old friends and employees in the Music Hall Variety Fund clubbed together to raise some money – including Chaplin, by then one of the most famous people in the world, who put in £1,000 to enable him to buy a part-share in the off-licence.
It is unclear how long he had the off-licence, but by September 1939, he and Marie had moved to 24 Wharfdale Road, Parkstone, where he died in September 1941, aged 75.
Chaplin sent a wreath to his funeral at Bournemouth Crematorium.