More about ‘Little Lily Harley’

The new Rudes show

Now going out in the Summer of 2021

  • 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? ‘Little Lily Harley’ 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 & at best crude Vaudeville into 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 during the summer of 2021. From January 2021 go to ‘Book tickets’ – Click here – to ensure you see it or buy through you local village box offices. Tickets will be on sale online from then & from 1st April, 2021, in the villages.

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