Highlands & Islands

Charlie Chaplin found peace in Nairn, says writer

Charlie Chaplin Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Charlie Chaplin is best known for his work in silent movie comedies

Charlie Chaplin found peace from the pressures of work and fame in a Scottish seaside town, suggests the writer of a new musical about his life.

After a tough childhood in London, which included time in a workhouse, Chaplin went on to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

In later life, he holidayed with his family in Nairn on the Moray Firth.

Writer Stuart Price believes Nairn and its setting offered Chaplin greater relief than more glamorous boltholes.

Image copyright Stuart Price
Image caption Chaplin - The Charlie Chaplin Story is headed for the Highlands

The musical written by Price, Chaplin - The Charlie Chaplin Story, is touring UK theatres. The cast includes Steven Arnold, who played Ashley Peacock in Coronation Street.

Next month, the production will be at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, just 16 miles from Nairn.

Chaplin, who is best known as a silent movie actor and director, took his family on holidays to Nairn and stayed in the town's Newton Hotel.

Image copyright Handout
Image caption Steven Arnold plays Chaplin's brother Sydney

Price and the musical's composer, Jake Field, visited the Highland town during their Chaplin story research work, which also took them to the film star's international hideaways in France and Switzerland.

The writer said: "I was aware of Chaplin's visits to Scotland.

"Jake and I wrote sections of this musical in France and Switzerland, visiting Lausanne and Nice on writing breaks, which gave us a chance to take in the scenery, wine and chocolate.

"We also visited Scotland and sadly only had a brief Saturday morning in Nairn.

"The peace Charlie clearly found in Switzerland and Scotland helped me to form a sense of relief for him to be away from the pressure, so it was inspiring without doubt."

Image copyright Handout
Image caption The musical celebrates Chaplin's life and talent

But Price added: "Though France had the grapes and Suisse had the sweets, for me Scotland outshone both in pure natural beauty, and I'm sure visiting was a very special treat for Charlie.

"I like to imagine the peace he felt there. The calm and the rest."

Chaplin had his fair share of troubles to try to find relief from. His childhood has been described as "Dickensian", while his movie career involved the pressures of working in showbusiness.

Arnold, who plays Chaplin's brother Sydney and Harry Weldon, a music hall comedian who worked with Chaplin, said: "Charlie and Sydney had a really rough upbringing as kids.

"Their childhood meant they had a very close relationship and, after some time being apart, they got together again in America.

"Sydney was the one person who could get away with talking to Charlie the way he did - telling him the truth. They had a great mutual respect for each other.

"Weldon, another role I play, and Chaplin did not see eye to eye at all. I think Weldon was very jealous of Chaplin and the two of them would fight."

Image copyright Lewis Clarke/Geograph
Image caption Stuart Price believes Chaplin felt peace in Nairn and its setting on the Moray Firth

Price added: "As a child from the streets Charlie only knew how to fight, which is what made him so successful and often, so isolated.

"His gift, like many, was a curse also. Being an artist is often like being chained to a relentless madman. Ask my wife.

"But it also takes you on incredible journeys in to other people's lives and getting to know about Chaplin has changed me forever."

Image copyright AP

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