Young Slapstick Reviewers

Six young people attended a fantastic Young Slapstick reviewing workshop with the brilliant Lynn Barlow and then wrote reviews of the Slapstick Gala. Huge thanks to Lynn Barlow for teaching the reviewing workshop, to Cathy Poole for facilitating it, and to all our amazing Young Slapstick reviewers!


If you’re not familiar with Bristol’s annual comedy celebration at The Colston Hall, let me summarise for you; live music, classic films, live comedy, and a room full of people laughing from start to finish.

The festival this year is on its fourteenth run within venues across Bristol, you can feel that it is put on for the love of comedy and its history, with the support of famous comedians who make guest appearances amongst the audience and who present the shows.

The evening is unique as you get to enjoy some of the best onscreen classics of silent comedy the way it would have been enjoyed in its day. The films are accompanied with live music by the European Silent screen virtuosi and members of the Bristol Ensemble, the performances make the films a different experience, one that’s more special than watching the films on a laptop at home.

Audiences get to witness on a big screen some of the kings of slapstick comedy, including Laurel and Hardy accidentally getting into a bit of trouble and fighting like an old married couple, Buster Keaton performing stunts on trains and banana skins for our enjoyment and Charlie Chaplin stealing hot dogs and terrorising local police with a puppy called ‘Scraps’, who arguably stole the hearts of the audience.

Slapstick is a treat for anyone of any age looking for something different to a typical cinema outing.

Francesca Cilia

Charlie Chaplin’s ‘A Dog’s Life’: Fighting for Scraps!

I’m a complete newbie when comes to silent films, but I can honestly say that after seeing Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life at the Slapstick Comedy Festival Gala, my interest has been peaked. The film was packed with energy and action I didn’t expect to see at all, with Chaplin in the main role as the marvellous, easy-going tramp and Edna Purviance as the shy and flouncing bar singer.

The film starts off with Chaplin’s tramp simply sleeping within the comfort of a street side fence, from there Charlie saves and forms a friendship with the adorable stray, Scraps. The duo then meet the bouncing bar singer, Edna, and through a flurry of events, find a wallet full of cash. There was no stopping Charlie and Scraps from wreaking hilarious havoc.

I’m all for the funny gags throughout the film, especially the scene where Edna’s emotional singing makes everyone in the bar weep, and with the version I saw, there was a live orchestra playing in the background emphasising the scene’s ridiculous sadness.

The direction and performance in this short movie was spectacular, Edna was particularly comic in her performance as, despite her shy appearance, (biting her nails and the seriously awkward flirting) she was a dancing queen; her dancing scene with Charlie had her bouncing about the room in the most joyous way possible. I almost wanted to dance with her!

The film ended sweetly with Charlie and Edna, now married and living in the country off the stolen loot, looking endearingly at puppies in a basket cuddled around their mother, a true thoroughbred, Scraps.

I seriously recommend this movie to others; I have become a new fan of silent comedy. The movie was overall light hearted, yet full of action; through the perspective of Chaplin and Scraps, we see their hardships and likeness of soul. Enjoying every second and laughing at the gags, I am really impressed with the loveable humour of Charlie Chaplin, and will be searching up more of his works in the future. The Slapstick Comedy festival is held once a year and shows classics like this one over a week and I would very likely go again!

Chloe McCormack

Reflecting Through A Pair of Dog’s Eyes

-A Dog’s Life Review-

Colston Hall falls silent. Sank in darkness, the screen casts the first beams of light on the audience of Slapstick Festival, gradually revealing the posh old-fashioned title card: A Dog’s Life. The live Ensemble fills the large room with the first thrilling notes of music, while the camera slowly tilts downwards to a sleeping beloved figure of the Silent Film Era, Charlie Chaplin. The whole room booms in laughs, announcing a welcoming and heart-warming evening at the Silent Comedy Gala.

Following the partly comedic, partly dramatic story of a tramp who tries to adapt and survive in the turmoiled society at the beginning of the twentieth century, A Dog’s Life not only shows the struggles of a life in the streets, but also the intellectual poverty of the bourgeois. Shot in black and white, the simplistic cinematography focuses on the protagonist in high contrast long and mid-shots. Also, the camera often opens in wides, following his rather theatrically fluid movements in the attentively crafted environment he is living in, creating the effect of an ample fresco.

Looking through the camera lens, we can easily empathize with our protagonist, understanding his apparently naïve and foolish day to day decisions. We notice how the tramp builds a deep connection with the dog he saves, the film gradually revealing that his new companion represents his own reflection in the world. The scene when he saves the dog from a battle and the cafe scenes, where various archetypes are presented in a human form as the clientele, are built as a symbolic parallel which depicts the alienation in a constantly ignorant and self-centered society.

However, the film has a happy ending, which shows a development of the protagonist and a change of his status. After finding a hidden wallet, the final scene presents him successfully running a farm and being married to the young singer he has met in the café, proving that everybody finds the accomplishment in their lives.

To conclude, A Dog’s Life represents an enriching

experience of the Silent Film Era, as well as a never-aging  funny story which teaches people of all ages the morals of humility, and a lesson for life, broadening their cinematic knowledge.

Ioana Bulai

Silent Comedy Gala: Review

The 2018 slapstick comedy festival is unequivocally brilliant. It has all the presence of a modern show; high tech audio mixers, projectors and the like, while possessing the ability to make me feel like I’d been taken back in time to the 1920’s, thanks to the breathtaking atmosphere. The festival is a breath of fresh air in today’s cinema climate, its ability to draw in a full house year after year showing that you don’t need flashy CGI or high-budget Hollywood audio to leave audiences with a smile on their faces.

This year’s event was hosted by comedian Tim Vine, a first-time Slapstick Festival presenter who maintained the high-energy atmosphere between screenings, thanks to some fantastically quick-witted comedy chops. Tim did a phenomenal job of ensuring that there were never any lulls between films, keeping the audience consistently entertained with a steady stream of one liners and witty puns.

Midway through the evening we were treated to a performance by The Kagools, a multi-award winning comedy duo from our very own United Kingdom. The act were an excellent homage to everything slapstick; their wordless comedy felt era appropriate for both the 1920’s and today, a perfect blend of old-fashioned fun and references to contemporary comedy (most notably Baywatch-esque slow motion running) and the classic gag of picking on the front row, even blasting crowds with water guns.

Additionally, the musical groups were a fantastic accompaniment to the films, with performers from the Bristol Ensemble and the European Silent Screen Virtuosi. Günter A. Buchwald’s conducting lead the orchestras to success, their seamless soundtrack lending itself so perfectly to the films that I almost forgot it wasn’t prerecorded background music!

I’d be hard pressed to provide a reasonable criticism of the event, as everything proceeded smoothly and without delay. There was never a dull moment, ensuring my enthusiasm was maintained throughout. As a first time Slapstick Festival goer, I am certain that I will be returning for future events.

Dan Bowers

Laurel and Hardy's Angora Love film review

This film stars the hilarious double act ‘Laurel and Hardy,’ who became well-known during the 1920s and through the mid-1940s with their very well performed slapstick comedy. It follows their idiotic journey where they come they come across a goat that causes trouble, and eventually ends up going home with them. It is an extremely funny short film, full of unfortunate happenings that are much more humorous to the audience than to the characters.

The plot centers around a stupid and thin English man called Stan Laurel (played by Arthur Stanley Jefferson) and an American fat man called Oliver Hardy (played by Norvell Hardy). The two bicker back and forth (with plenty of physical comedy, of course) throughout the film.

A goat follows them after Laurel gives it a doughnut, and he then takes it home with them.  They make a lot of noise and disturb the unfriendly landlord from whom they hide the goat under the bed. They notice that the goat smells, and so attempt to give it a bath which causes a mess – and the landlord to check on them again. They comically pour water over one another in a childish manner, and anger each other even more.

It is directed by Lewis R. Foster who directed and wrote over one hundred films and television series between 1926 and 1960. It is full of fantastic shots, for example near the beginning they are running from the goat and it cuts between the goat chasing them and them running comically, which was accompanied by brilliant live music that added to the comedy.

In my opinion, this was an excellent film, full of hilarious slapstick comedy. The performance is extremely well done, with great facial expressions that made the entire audience laugh continuously.

Laurel and Hardy are classic characters that many will always love. It is definitely a memorable film for me with barely anything that could be criticized. However, if I were to criticize something, it would be that it was a little confusing at times, but that is to be expected in a film with no dialogue.

For the most part, the film and the storyline was conveyed spectacularly though the iconic physical comedy. I highly recommend you watch this film, as it really shows the talented actors skills in slapstick comedy and is sure to make you laugh throughout.

Sasha Cussens

Move over Cumberbatch, Buster Keaton's the only Sherlock for me. 

What can be said about Sherlock Jr. that hasn’t been said already? Originally mildly received and a relatively financial ‘failure’ according to Keaton, the 5 reel film has since become a treasure of early cinema and is heralded as one of his greatest works.

It’s a story of love, dreams and aspirations. A projectionist dreams of being a detective, dreams of marrying a girl and, quite literally, dreams half the film away in a long, expanded dream sequence that leaves you completely forgetting about the previous plot, culminating in a massive laugh when we finally return to reality.

But we don’t watch Keaton for a thrilling story, we watch him for the gags! As ever, they seamlessly flow together, one after the other, incorporated and truly part of the story themselves. Nothing is a side gag. He gets into trouble with a laugh, and gets out of trouble with a laugh.

As child performer in vaudeville acts, Keaton gained much of his influence from such magical comedic tricks. Like when he disappears into the belly of a friend, or when he jumps through a window and uses a shawl to suddenly disguise himself. Other gags are achievable only through the power of cinéma. His use of double exposure to make it seem like he is in the film screen that is cutting between different locations, and reversing film to create the illusion of narrowly missing a train is brilliant.

But Keaton is most famous for his world renowned stunts, impressive still to this day. Out of the 4 films viewed last night at the Silent comedy Gala, this is the one that truly impressed me. Today we’d only see this done through special effects, clever cuts or in cartoons.

Falling from a level crossing gate into a car, actually breaking his neck from a torrent of water, controlling a motorbike whilst sitting on its handles and my favourite; getting perfect snooker shots whilst always avoiding the one explosive ball; all of his stunts are always widely framed so that the whole stunt can be seen in one shot. No cuts. The dauntlessness and dedication is ever incredible and of course, fantastically hilarious.

Just see this film. Do it. You won’t regret it. 40 minutes of your time. It’s wonderful with a live audience and band, but still just as funny at home. It’s the golden pinnacle of the comedic silent age, and one the whole family can enjoy.

Shayan Ghorbanian

Slapstick 2018 events

Featured Events


27jan9:15 PM11:20 PMThe Rocky Horror Picture Show 12A9:15 PM - 11:20 PM Colston Hall

26jan7:30 PM10:30 PMSILENT COMEDY GALA7:30 PM - 10:30 PM Colston Hall

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Welcome to Slapstick 2018


Check out our new events section! BUY SILENT COMEDY PASS BUY SLAPSTICK FULL PASS

26jan7:30 PM10:30 PMSILENT COMEDY GALA7:30 PM - 10:30 PM Colston Hall

27jan9:15 PM11:20 PMThe Rocky Horror Picture Show 12A9:15 PM - 11:20 PM Colston Hall

27jan7:00 PM8:20 PMLee Mack’s  Laurel & Hardy Classics7:00 PM - 8:20 PM Colston Hall

25jan9:00 PM10:00 PMThe Kagools: TUTTI9:00 PM - 10:00 PM Arnolfini

Welcome to Slapstick 2018

To an increasingly crazy world, comedy brings solace and sanity and Bristol’s SLAPSTICK now stands as Europe’s biggest and best festival of comedy, bringing together classic screen clowning with today’s fnest living laughter-makers from British stage and television. This year is the 14th and our biggest edition yet.

This edition of Slapstick festival is dedicated to our dear friend Tony White (1937-2017). His devotion, enthusiasm and contribution to Slapstick was always a highlight each year for us and he will be sorely missed by us all.

Comedy is timeless and this year’s SLAPSTICK celebrates the centenary of Buster Keaton’s debut in pictures: a hundred years later he stands with Chaplin – an icon, more funny and relevant than ever. More than half a century ago British television saw an explosion of comedy genius – from Monty Python to Dad’s Army, from Peter Sellers to Eric & Ernie – that still leaves its indelible mark on the best new laughter-makers today. At SLAPSTICK, today’s comedy creators merrily and passionately confront their comic ancestry for new audiences.

Several events – notably our opening night screening of SPITE MARRIAGE – recall the making and mastery of Buster Keaton. Oscar-winning historian, restorer and flm-maker Kevin Brownlow presents some Keaton surprises, while historian David Robinson reveals the vaudeville world that produced the young Keaton. Bristol will also have an early opportunity to see James Dangerfeld’s “one-man musical”, When You Fall Down, in tribute to Keaton’s life and work. A premiere programme of flms rediscovered after disappearing for more than a century – most from the collection of Anthony Saffrey, who will be present for the event – shows the evolution of the comic star: from Andre Deed and Max Linder to lesser-known geniuses like Marcel Perez and Karl Valentin. In addition Chris Serle introduces us to the unjustly long-forgotten Austrian clowns, Cocl and Seff.

Stand-up comedian, actress and writer Lucy Porter celebrates the great female comics of the screen, Betty Balfour and Constance Talmadge (Buster Keaton’s sister-in-law!) and the unparalleled Jo Brand chooses her top funny moments whilst comedian Lee Mack celebrates Laurel & Hardy in a special event on Saturday at Colston Hall.

A special feature of this year’s SLAPSTICK is the role that music has played in comedy. A celebratory late-night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with special guest Jason Donovan. The musical theme continues with a series of programmes fronted by the patron saint of SLAPSTICK, Barry Cryer, whose unparalleled contribution to British comedy writing includes The Two Ronnies. Barry’s frequent partner in comedy crime, Ronnie Golden appears in a solo show and veteran Goodie and wildlife champion Bill Oddie will reveal the secrets of song writing for The Goodies. There is a rare reunion of the mock heavy-metal band “Bad News,” from The Comic Strip Presents, with Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer in an onstage discussion. “Raw Sex”, the comedy musical double act with Rowland Rivron and Simon Grint, also features as Rowland discusses their rise from French & Saunders house band to cult comedy legends today.

Check out our new events section!


Slapstick is proud, as ever, to present world class live music accompaniments for its projected silent film screenings from solo piano improvisations to full orchestral scores and this year is no exception. At our gala, Charles Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life (1918) is being accompanied by the 16-piece Bristol Ensemble performing with Chaplin’s own score conducted by Slapstick’s Musical Director, maestro Günter A. Buchwald. The unstoppable four-piece ensemble European Silent Screen Virtuosi (ESSV) return with special guest musicians including Oscar©-winner Richard Williams on cornet and Roger Huckle (Bristol Ensemble) to accompany Keaton’s Sherlock Jr They will also provide accompaniment for Battle of the Century (1927) on Saturday night and Spite Marriage (1929) on Thursday evening.

In addition multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne will be accompanying classic Keaton shorts at Bristol Old Vic on Saturday afternoon and we are delighted to welcome back the world’s foremost silent film harpist Elizabeth-Jane Baldry who’ll be accompanying short comedies for us on solo harp on Saturday. Pianist and composer Daan van den Hurk  returns to Slapstick Festival on piano and other solo performers include John Sweeney and Günter A. Buchwald.

Read more about our musicians here

A brand new event for which we anticipate a big future is “Young Slapstick Saturday ” at Colston Hall which combines screenings of classic comedy short flms with a comedy workshop for 8-11 year olds and Punch-and-Judy shows in between. Slapstick offers fun and laughter for all the family and all the South West. There could be no better way to start the year 2018!

There could be no better way to start the year 2018!


Chris Daniels,
Slapstick Festival