Review: WHEN YOU FALL DOWN: THE BUSTER KEATON STORY. ***

MUSICALS AND OPERA

WHEN YOU FALL DOWN: THE BUSTER KEATON STORY.

Pleasance Courtyard. Venue 33

August 1st to 27th Not 14th

*** (Three Stars)

James Dangerfield performs here, and he has written the music and lyrics, with arrangements by Martyn Stringer.

It is a very lively, entertaining and sympathetic show, where James Dangerfield takes seven days that are key to Buster Keaton’s career across the years, and takes us into the events of those dates, along with Keaton’s feelings and reactions ton what is happening.

Songs are the backbone of the show, and each day has its song or songs. These are expressive and very engaging, and Dangerfield has a good voice and delivery. There are also spoken sections and clips from films, with reference of course to The General and to the iconic scene where a house falls down around Keaton. James Dangerfield includes a few falls of his own, and his use of movement is one of the delights of the show.

As we go through Keaton’s career we see him optimistic but struggling, getting attention for the first time, supporting his friend Arbuckle with his legal problems, talking to his fiancée then wife, spending vast amounts on house building, and enjoying success, but then fearing the loss of freedom to organize his projects as he wishes. His artistic freedom is reduced as he moves to Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

I felt this show took a little while to warm up, but as we became more involved in the life and work and began to move through the days, we became more and more caught up in what was happening, and there were both laughs and emotional involvement.

James Dangerfield is a very effective and lively performer, who gives a voice of much vitality and interest to the man who was notoriously silent. Most of the audience were familiar with the subject, I am sure, but will have found it very enjoyable to experience this brief but vivid exploration of the complicated life of a man who gave joy to millions.

Tony Challis