Dear Mr. Keaton, I love your movies. Can you tell me the secret of your comedy?
“Well, I guess you take the knocks, absorb the shocks, and then you keep on going.
When you fall down, you get back up and you don’t complain.”
When You Fall Down is back in London at The Hope Theatre Islington, on Sun 11th and Mon 12th Feb. Tickets can be bought here
1928. Buster Keaton, star of the silent screen, arrives in Culver City, at the movie studio which is to be his new home. He takes this moment to reflect on his life and career.
When You Fall Down tells Buster’s story from his first movie-making experience in 1917, to his signing by MGM 11 years later. We join Buster on seven separate days from this period as he films his iconic movies, following his personal and professional triumphs and trials. As the world whirls around him, with his marriage failing, his career at threat and turning to the bottle, Buster must hit his mark as he films the most dangerous stunt of all.
Just like his short film “One Week”, for each of the seven days we see a page-a-day calendar turn on a screen at the back of the stage. As the audience sees the inspiration for Buster’s incredible ideas, footage from the films plays to show the breathtaking results. With slapstick, songs and a soft shoe shuffle, the show is a tribute to “The Great Stone Face”; a man who always got back on his feet, no matter how many times he fell down.
50 minutes long, the show could also be programmed as an evening alongside Buster’s classic picture and love letter to film-making; Sherlock Jr. Book, Music & Lyrics by James Dangerfield. Arrangements by Martyn Stringer. Instrumentals written & performed by Martyn Stringer.
When You Fall Down was performed in September 2017 at The Hen and Chickens Theatre, before a US premiere in October at the 2017 International Buster Keaton Convention in Michigan. In January 2018 the show appeared at Colston Hall, Bristol, as part of The Slapstick Festival.
You can listen to some of the songs below:
March 1917. Buster is in New York, having left the family vaudeville act to get his own theatre job. However, he has just met screen comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who invited Buster on set to shoot a scene in his latest comedy short. Buster takes a movie camera home and examines it…
September 1921. A girl has been found dead at Roscoe’s Labor Day party, and the papers are determined to demonize him, in order to make an example of prohibition-flouting movie stars. As Buster reflects on his friend’s predicament, an idea strikes for his next short film….
October 1924. A radio announcer trumpets Buster’s success, now that he is a star of feature film (6 reelers). And it looks forward to his forthcoming production. Buster’s next movie is The Navigator, set on an abandoned ocean liner. He is excited at being in control of his career and future…
“Entertaining, engaging and full of charm, it’s a very fitting tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest actor-directors.” ★★★★ (London Pub Theatres)
“‘When You Fall Down’ is a triumph, a must-see for silent film buffs and a gateway for the uninitiated to Buster Keaton’s comic brilliance.” (Binnie Brennan, Keaton scholar and author)
“For anyone who is an admirer of Buster Keaton’s work, loves the silent movie era or just likes a good musical, this show is for you.” (London Pub Theatres)
“James Dangerfield captures the essence of Buster Keaton, one of the greatest film-makers and comic artists in movie history.” (Binnie Brennan, Keaton scholar and author)
“This musical one-man show is performed and written by James Dangerfield, who clearly has a great admiration and depth of knowledge of Keaton and his body of work. There are some neat comedy tricks and re-creations of Keaton’s work.” (London Pub Theatres)
“ ‘When You Fall Down’ is a vivid and convincing portrayal of Keaton during his film-making heyday”. (Binnie Brennan, Keaton scholar and author)
“The music, largely piano, written by James Dangerfield, fits the period and acts as a homage to the live musical accompaniment of the silent movie era. The lyrics are astute and pertinent, and Dangerfield has a strong theatrical voice that carries them well.” (London Pub Theatres)
“Dangerfield’s musical numbers embody the spareness and lighter-than-air qualities of Buster Keaton’s films, evoking a sepia-tinted poignancy as the comedic genius known as ‘The Great Stone Face’ rises above hard knocks both on and off the screen.” (Binnie Brennan, Keaton scholar and author)
“James Dangerfield has chosen moments that tell us what matters to Keaton. In doing so, he employs ways not only to show that Keaton had values of hard work, fidelity in friendship, trust, and pursuing his insight into what could be achieved in film (and where those values came from), but also that evoke Keaton through costume, the grace of movement (and of dance-steps), magical sleight of hand, and, of course, through footage”. (UCFF)
“As Keaton, James Dangerfield presents himself as being very light footed, and he has composed original music that is very sympathetic to the tone-colours of his voice”. (UCFF)
“The optimistic tone of the opening resumes in this number, to end triumphantly – already, the audience was with Dangerfield as Keaton, just as assuredly it was in ‘The Navigator’, a big and inspiring musical number of self-belief .” (UCFF)
“A well-written and very confidently performed and convivial one-man show by James Dangerfield, which deserves to be seen more widely”. (UCFF)