HOW big a comedy buff are you? Did you know that two of the all-time greats, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel toured American together in their early years long before they became household names?

This fascinating snippet of information forms the basis of a new production which comes to The Lowry on Monday.

Charlie & Stan has been written and directed by Paul Hunter and is presented as though it were a silent film. There is no dialogue just live piano accompaniment as the relationship between the two characters is observed.

“I was vaguely aware that their paths had crossed and the more I looked into I was drawn to the story of these two great comedians sharing a cabin as they sailed across the Atlantic before touring with Fred Karno’s circus,” said Paul.

“I knew I didn’t want to write a biodrama, there are a lot of factual shows and films about the two men. As we went on I realised I wanted fantasy over reality and fiction over fact even though there is a strong basis in truth.”

Writing a script without words proved a challenge and Paul had to produce a storyboard of ideas.

“I would take the storyboard to rehearsals and rely on the actors to bring the situations to life,” he said. “This was exactly how Chaplin would work on his early films but you need really skilful performers to pull it off.”

To further go against convention, Danielle Bird was cast as Chaplin and Jerone Marsh-Reid as Stan.

“It was very important to me not to just get two people to do impressions of Charlie and Stan,” said Paul. “In the end I got a woman and a mixed race actor. They were the best actors for the parts but also it stops the audience worrying about the original characters, they can relax a bit and not compare them directly.”

Any diehard fans hoping to see classic movie scenes recreated will be disappointed.

“That would be pointless,” said Paul. “How can you hope to pull those off? What has been most satisfying is that scenes we have devised have proved to be so realistic that after shows we’ve had audience members coming up and asking which films they were from.”

Music is at the heart of the show with Sara Alexander playing live - and often improvising - throughout the performance, just as they did with the silent films.

“The score by Zoe Rahman is brilliant but it also has space in it for Sara to react to the actors,” said Paul.

“There is so much in this show but at its heart it had to be entertaining which is sometimes looked down on in the theatre.”

Charlie & Stan, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Monday, September 13 to Saturday, September18. details from