‘Little Lily Harley’ tour cancelled

In the light of the growing public health crisis our tour of ‘Little Lily Harley’ has been cancelled. The times are very difficult & we all have to find ways now to concentrate on looking after our loved ones and ourselves. When we are finally ‘allowed out’ we will have a really good knees up & value so much more all the beautiful things in the world we have missed – and there are many beautiful things! The Rudes will be back with Charlie’s little play in 2021. but watch this site. In the meantime we will leave you with the poem that ends the first half of the play. Hopefully you will be able to understand the Cockney accent! It’s Charlie’s ‘muvver’ entreating her boys to stay strong.

When storms an’ tempests moan an’ crack,

When billowin’ winds blow bleak an’ black,

An’ ‘obgoblins an’ beasties squeal

So ‘ardened men in terror reel,

An’ rattlin’ squalls break limbs from trees

          An’ ‘earts… that are so dear to me!

When governments, aufori’ies,

An’ well-meant schemes, false chari’ies,

Drive the poor darn t’ their knees

An’ do it wiv impuni’y! –

When actions wound an’ words concuss,

An’ people start desertin’ us,

Pray tha’ they don’t, f’ pi’y’s sake!

But if they do, we… will… no’… break!

The brand new show for our 2020 Outdoor Summer tour will be…

‘Little Lily Harley’

From living on the streets of Lambeth and in a home for destitute children, he rose above appalling adversity to become arguably the greatest film star ever. How is that possible?

The new Rudes show is the extraordinary story of Charlie Chaplin’s childhood and how he made comedy out of tragedy, and was transformed from an illiterate ragamuffin into an extraordinary actor, brimming with physical energy, charm, and beautiful, almost balletic movement. He transformed silent films from mere documentary to a new art form – and he did it in black & white. Beauty is so often about colours, but it was by not having colour, by allowing people to see colour through the imagination when it wasn’t there, that he succeeded. This he learnt in a childhood deprived of colour, except what he found in his imagination, & the play in particular explores that concept.


Of course, he wasn’t the only one. His fellow actor & immigrant to America, Stan Laurel, contributed, along with the wonderful equally beautiful Buster Keaton, & others. But Charlie lead the way. His secret was in making beauty & colour out of adversity & this he learnt through the tragic figure of his mother, Hannah Chaplin (stage name Little Lily Harley), parent of three boys by different fathers, abused by men, contracting syphilis while still a teenager,  and gradually going mad as the brutal music hall industry, and a society dominated by men who saw female actors often as ‘fair game’, gradually broke her apart.

Yet, through it all she showed Charlie & his brother Sydney how to go through the ‘little door’ into their imagination where they could see even the distant unattainable stars as silver cherries which they could leap up and  pick, stuff themselves with & take as their own – and in the process laugh, smile and forget their suffering.

Was Charlie undamaged by the process? No. He married four times, three wives of whom were mere girls of 15.  Obsessed by his mother’s own nubile beauty, despite never being able to come to terms with her decline, no woman in his eyes could ever match her even though he sort ‘her’ all his life.  It is an extraordinary story brought to life by The Rudes.

Full of music hall, poetry, playground clapping rhymes and slapstick, it will make you cry one minute and howl with laughter the next. Touring nightly outdoors to 50 venues across Southern England. Go to the ‘Book tickets’ tab (above) to ensure you see it or buy through you local village box offices. Tickets are on sale online now & from 1st April in the villages.





therudes@btinternet.com or therudes1948@gmail.com

Photography by John Stanley-Clamp & Glenn Overington –

Taking new theatre to rural communities

– and some towns!  

The Rude Mechanical Theatre Co, or The Rudes as lots of people call us, are an outdoor touring theatre company specialising in taking new & original theatre to mainly small rural communities and a few towns across the South of England. We were founded in 1998 & first toured in the Summer of 1999. Currently we tour only in the summer performing 50+ times nightly during June, July & August. We have been going to many venues for 21 years & they are our first priority, but we will consider new venues if people suggest them.

Our style is very physical & heavily influenced by the ancient theatre of the commedia dell’arte but we create our own stories & characters appropriate to our audiences & times. Our costumes are cartoon-ised. Our make-up is pantomime blanche. We light with gas which creates a beautiful ‘living’ light. All the actors are also musicians & the music is fully integrated into the action. We love to tell stories! And we want to make you think, too. But most of all we want you to come to our shows with family, friends and neigbours and have a good time & go home with a smile . 

What people said about our last show ‘Ikarus Inc’

“Not knowing what we were about to see, my daughter and I sat under the footlights at your production on Alfriston Tye…. I have rarely laughed, almost cried, tested my mind whilst following a story, fell in love with all the characters (especially Sandra), been wooed by singing and instruments, been totally captivated by the exceedingly talented acting…. Shall I go on? The attention to detail was outstanding and I was, I think, most impressed by the way in which you were all completely absorbed with each character you played. I can only say an enormous thank you and, roll on next year” – Tizzie C, Alfriston performance

“The show was sublime! I sat on the front row and relished every second. So many beautiful details and ‘running off the ball’ by the actors with witty retorts under the breath and the whole multi-level engagement with the audience. It was exquisite, hilarious, touching, powerful and world class. Your company is in a league of its own. Great to see the new actors blend in with such ease and panache. Everyone in the audience had a ball” – Richard W-B, Plough Arts Centre, Torrington, Tapeley Park performance

“Congratulations to you all for Icarus Inc on Saturday in Droxford. A superbly constructed play, brilliantly acted. Using a contemporary, at least 1955, setting for the retelling of a classical story was a stroke of genius. The allusion to the Temptation of Jesus in the programme notes and the great Chain of Being points to the underlying universal truth in the story and gave added depth to the whole thing. Thank you for a most enjoyable evening. With best wishes for your future enterprises” – Dr PB, Droxford performance

“Thank you for entertaining us so brilliantly again last night. It was a wonderful, crazy, colourful show which made us fall about laughing with the quick fire script and gesticulations and impeccable timing, great head dresses and costumes, and you got us hand-clapping to the music. Look forward to next year!” R E, Michelham Priory performance

How to book

The list of venues and the booking facility will be set up very soon.

You can book by clicking on the ‘Book Tickets’ tab above. But many venues have local box offices in shops or post offices, or ‘walking box offices’ (people in communities who sell tickets for us). These will be advertised in e-flyers sent out to our mailing list or in paper flyers distributed in the villages & towns where we perform. Or you can ring us (01323-501260) & we will tell you about other ways to book.

Large group deals!

A quick tip! If you intend to book a group of ten or more for a night out with friends, family or colleagues, don’t use the online booking system but get a special deal by emailing therudes@btinternet.com with what you want.

Do you want a show in your community?

If you do ring (01323-501260) or email (therudes@btint ernet.com) us & we will send you a ‘new venue brochure’ which explains how it all works.


Advice & conditions for going to our shows

Picnics The site will be open one & a half hours before the start for picnics. Large picnic tables or gazebos will not be allowed in the arena, except by special arrangement. Ring 01323-50-12-60


Seating – Seating is not provided. Bring your own low backed seats or rugs. Tall chairs are not permitted. You will be asked to move picnics that are spread out so that seats can be brought into lines 20 minutes before the show is due to start. You may be asked to move your seats if the arena gets full to aid compaction. In our experience we believe our customers get more out of our shows by sitting close together & as close to the front as possible.


Movement around the area – This is a sit down event. Do not let children run around & try to make loo runs in the interval.


Cancellation – We will continue in light rain. If the performance has to be called off in the event of heavy rain or for other reasons beyond our control refunds may be claimed by emailing the Box Office (therudes@btinternet.com). As we are on the road for most of the summer it may take a few days. But note: This does not apply to The Gilbert White House in Selborne, where there will be no refunds. However, customers can transfer for free to any other venue. In fact, for any performance that is interrupted by rain customers may see the show again for free. Email us to re-book. Don’t do it online.


Umbrellas – Umbrellas must not be raised in the arena while the play is in progress, unless you are sitting at the back or round the perimeter. If it gets so bad that it is uncomfortable we will stop. Umbrellas restrict people’s view.


Children – Note that our shows are aimed at adults. However, many children do like them and for that reason we do offer child and family rates, but it is for parents to judge whether their children are likely to enjoy it. One key question is: Are they likely to sit quietly for two hours or so? If the answer is no then you probably shouldn’t bring them.


Babies and small toddlers – We want children to be initiated young, but it is not a children’s show where ‘child noise’ is tolerated, so please do not bring babies and toddlers. Please use your judgment for children say between 3 & 7. Ring us for advice if you are unsure.


Dogs – We are happy to have quiet dogs, but if they start barking they must be taken out.

Smoking – No form of smoking, including electronic cigarettes, is permitted within the audience area. Please leave the area if you wish to smoke.


New theatre inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte

The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company has been creating original theatre inspired by the traditions and style of the Commedia dell’Arte since 1999. We work outdoors in the summer months mainly  in villages and also a few towns across Southern England from Kent to Devon creating strong relationships with communities. We believe in the power of storytelling to bring communities together, giving a reason for people to be together and share in an experience which stimulates the mind, heals through laughter, and educates through thought-provoking subject-matter. Although our style is rooted in a genre which is hundreds of years old the stories always reflect what matters to people now. We also tour indoors occasionally in the winter and it is our aim to do more of this in the future.

Pete’s blog

Click on the following to read about Pete’s current thoughts about our work.

See Pete’s blog