Here comes 2011, and first off the blocks will be the seventh edition of the annual Slapstick festival, held in Bristol. The festival has developed into a celebration of visual comedy in general by bringing together silent slapstick with British television and radio comedians of today (not that radio excels in visual comedy, but it all fits somehow). This year the presenters include Bill Oddie, Ian Lavender, Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Neil Innes, Shappi Khorsandi and Chris Serle. Kevin Brownlow turns up presenting ‘Unknown Chaplin’ material, while the silent performers featured include Chaplin, Keaton and Langdon. And there is also a welcome tribute to one of Bristol’s finest, the Aardman Animation studios’ children TV series Shaun the Sheep, which the Bioscope should have championed long before now as a truly great example of the art of silent comedy happily carried on into the 21st century (and who would have guessed that Sir Christopher Frayling was a fan? Good on him).
Here’s the full programme:
THURSDAY 27 JANUARY
UNKNOWN CHAPLIN with KEVIN BROWNLOW
Academy Award winning film historian Kevin Brownlow introduces a selection of the rarest and least known footage of Charlie Chaplin as the festival opens with the first of four events dedicated to the ‘Little Tramp’.
8.00pm Colston Hall
Neil Innes: A People’s Guide to World Domination
The very welcome return of Slapstick Festival supporter and patron, Rutle and Bonzo front man Neil Innes as he brings his new solo show to Colston Hall for one night only on the opening night of Bristol’s Seventh Slapstick Festival. Neil performs a wry, poignant, humorous and topical one-man show, spiced with anecdotes of his life and times in the worlds of media and show business. Neil’s solo shows tickle the emotions with a potent mix of fine musicianship and enlightened lyricism, packed with sharp observations celebrating the absurdities of modern existence. Join us for a unique musical experience in the company of the self proclaimed ‘Ego Warrior’ and ‘Seventh Python’
FRIDAY 28 JANUARY
CLARA BOW in MANTRAP (Dir Victor Fleming; USA, 126 mins)
Clara Bow wasn’t just the ‘IT’ girl of a generation, she was also a fine actress and comedienne. Here in one of her funniest films, Bow plays the sexy wife of an old Canadian backwoodsman who becomes attracted to a young, rich and famous divorce lawyer who comes to town on vacation.
SLAPSTICK INTERNATIONAL (U) with live piano accompaniment
In a continuation of Slapstick’s tradition of sharing the best new silent comedy finds, three superb films discovered by the Giornate Cinema Muto for Italy’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival: W.C. Fields, making his silent screen debut, in THE POOL SHARKS; the same wise-cracker in the early sound short, THE GOLF SPECIALIST, plus a delightful silent from Russian, CHESS FEVER. Introduced by Pordenone’s director David Robinson, with John Sweeney on piano and Chris Serle as host.
7.30pm Colston Hall
SLAPSTICK SILENT COMEDY GALA
with Bill Oddie, Ian Lavender, Barry Cryer and Neil Innes; the Jazz Train orchestra; the European Silent Screen Virtuosi and Paul McGann
Four living comedy icons introduce a four-film salute to the best-loved past masters of silent humour, showing here on a giant screen with music from the 25-piece jazz combo, Jazz Train, and the European Silent Screen Virtuosi. Plus a ukulele tribute to Chaplin and an appearance by Paul McGann. £20 (£16 conc); £6 under 12s.
SATURDAY 29 JANUARY
9.30am Colston Hall
HOMAGE TO CHAPLIN (U, Germany, 50 mins)
A rare chance to see a fine visual tribute to Charlie Chaplin, made in association with, and performed by students from, a German school for young people who are deaf. Showing here with a live piano accompaniment by Guenter Buchwald.
11am Colston Hall
HARRY LANGDON: BEST COMEDY SHORTS with Graeme Garden
Baby-faced Harry Langdon used a subtler form of visual comedy than that which became known as ‘slapstick’ but his talent made him a worthy rival of those who became better known. Here, Graeme Garden, of The Goodies and the I’M SORRY I HAVEN’T A CLUE panel explains why he’s a Langdon champion and introduces some of the comic’s brightest and funniest shorts. With live music.
CHAPLIN: THE CIRCUS + a new animation CIRCUS DRAWINGS
Too often overshadowed by his more legendary comedies, THE CIRCUS boasts Chaplin’s most brilliant gags, including a Hall of Mirrors chase and climaxing with a de-trousering by monkeys on the high wire! Showing here with the UK premiere of a new short by the triple Oscar-winning animator, Richard Williams, based on his 1950s drawings of a circus in Spain.
4pm Bristol Old Vic
CELEBRATING BUSTER KEATON with IAN LAVENDER
DAD’S ARMY and EASTENDERS star Ian Lavender makes his first Slapstick visit appearance to share his long-held passion for Buster Keaton – his chosen subject on a recent Celebrity Mastermind – before revealing and screening his all time favourite short by ‘the great stone face’ and then introducing SHERLOCK JUNIOR (PG, 1924, 45 mins) in which Keaton plays an aspiring detective wrongly accused of a crime by the family of the girl he loves. With live accompaniment by the five-piece European Silent Screen Virtuosi.
8pm Bristol Old Vic
BARRY CRYER’S TOP COMEDY MOMENTS with ROB BRYD0N
The man who has probably worked with &/or written for more UK comics than anyone else on the planet shares his favourite moments and memories with another bright star of British comedy, Rob Brydon. Together, they’ll be telling tales and showing clips celebrating almost 100 years of film and tv humour – from Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, via Morecambe & Wise and David ‘Del Boy’ Jason to today.
SUNDAY 30 JANUARY
9.30am Colston Hall
REDISCOVERIES & REVELATIONS
Amazingly, 2010 saw the rediscovery of not one but two unknown Chaplin films, a lost Charley Chase, and the recovery of films featuring Laurel & Hardy, Harry Langdon and British stars, Walter Forde and Pimple. Join silent comedy expert David Wyatt as he brings these gems and others to the screen again, concluding with the UK premiere of Stan Laurel’s restored Monty Python-like classic WHEN KNIGHTS WERE COLD (1923).
11am Colston Hall
MARTY! with TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR and CHRIS SERLE
Writer, actor and wit Tim Brooke-Taylor shares his memories of working with the instantly-recognisable but often overlooked bug-eyed funny man Marty Feldman in his pre-Hollywood days. With clips of some of Marty’s best visual gags from shows like the seminal AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW and the BAFTA award-winning MARTY to illustrate and Chris Serle as host.
LECTURE: SLAPSTICK & THE CITY: Silent Comedy and the Metropolitan Playground plus HEAVEN’S SAKE and music from The Slapstick Boys
Dr Alex Clayton, Lecturer in Screen Studies at the University of Bristol, looks at how early slapstick films used urban architecture – including statues, giant clocks, escalators and industrial machines – to create some of their most vivid and comic sequences. With illustrative clips and, to follow, a Harold Lloyd comedy (U, 1926, 58 mins) set in the ‘Big Apple’, with a live accompaniment.
IT’S… SHAUN THE SHEEP
Eighty years on from the end of the silent film era, silent comedy is alive and well and regaining massive new audiences and global success in the guise of the Wallace and Gromit spin-off character Shaun the Sheep’. Here, Aardman Animation’s Creative Director Richard Goleszowski, chats with Sir Christopher Frayling about Shaun’s inspirations, development and popularity, using extracts from the shows and original models.
4pm Bristol Old Vic
CHAPLIN: THE GREAT DICTATOR with SHAPPI KHORSANDI
When comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi was invited to add an item to BBC Radio 4’s THE MUSEUM OF CURIOSITY, she chose Charlie Chaplin and revealed that his THE GREAT DICTATOR is her all-time favourite film. Here, she explains why she is so drawn to this satire on dictatorship, Fascism, and racism before iintroducing the film (PG, 1940, 120 mins) in which Chaplin plays both the Hitleresque Adenoid Hynkel and his look-alike, a poor Jewish barber. £10-£5
MARTY: THE YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN with TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR
To close Slapstick 2011, Tim Brooke-Taylor introduces the Frankenstein spoofathon which catapulted his comedy colleague Marty Feldman to international stardom. Here, Feldman plays Eye-Gore in a piece of inspired lunacy which also stars Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. Dir: Mel Brooks, USA, 1974, 105 mins.
All the necessary information, with booking details and information on past festivals, can be found on the Slapstick site.