Event review: Lost Format Society presents Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush with the London Mozart Players

By - Friday 26th May, 2017

A timeless star in a five star setting under the stars

Photo by Lost Format Society, used with permission.

Lost Format’s sky-high cinema is back for its third summer in Croydon town centre, this time on the roof of Centrale. And what with the general election, political arguments raging and a feeling of national and international weakness and wobble no matter what anyone says to the contrary, it’s just the ticket.

On this first Saturday of the season came a special treat: the original 1925 version of Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, but with a twist. The soundtrack was to be performed live by the London Mozart Players.

The film was regarded by Chaplin as some of his finest work. And it’s a delight from start to finish, with marvellous performances by Tom Murray as the menacing Black Larsen, Mack Swain as Big Jim McKay and of course from Chaplin himself, whose sheer athleticism, physical accuracy and comic timing as the Lone Prospector is a joy to behold. Sparsely-rendered dialogue and sketchy linking sentences appearing on the screen give pre-talkie actors an awful lot of story-telling to do with faces and bodies, and it’s wonderfully done: the plot is by turns suspenseful, moving and hilarious. And of course – there was also the music.

Photo by @Foden Photography 2017, used with permission.

The London Mozart Players (LMP) is the oldest chamber orchestra in the UK. Formed in 1949, its base is the Fairfield Halls, so during the re-furb it’s homed at St John the Evangelist church, Upper Norwood. Just the night before, it had played at Matthews Yard as part of a programme called #LMPOnTheMove, taking a classical ensemble out and about to community venues and new audiences.

A live movie soundtrack’s a task and a half, with non-stop activity, zero margin for error and fiendish eye/baton co-ordination required from conductor Ben Palmer. LMP pulled it off in style, even getting what’s called ‘Mickey Mouse-ing’ – the sync-ing of musical accompaniment with action on screen, such as a clash of cymbals when someone walks into a door or a doleful cascade of notes to accompany a tumble downstairs – spot on. It’s a rather peculiar compliment, but in such a seamlessly blended performance, film-goers could almost forget that the players and instruments were actually there.

“Obscenely cool”, tweeted key influencer Jonny Rose

Lost Format’s 2017 location’s a winner, with generous undercover space for rainy day eating and drinking, music at the bar, street art on the walls and dramatic views east over the rooftops towards Saffron Tower, whose crocus purples and baby pinks were matched by a big evening sky. There are lifts to take you up there, security staff and easily accessible lavatories: whether or not you find tickets at £10.00 expensive, the costs of creating all this in a carpark are self-evident. It’s a grand destination for a drink, a meal or just some chilling time, with plenty more movies to come. Forget about politics – come and enjoy summer..

Photo by @Foden Photography 2017, used with permission.

Although, there was something else going on too – revealing a truth about Croydon. One constantly hears that the place is ‘changing’ and clearly that’s so, but also – it’s barely got started. “Obscenely cool”, tweeted Jonny Rose, prophet of tech, fashion mogul and the thirty-seventh most influential person in our town, of this evening’s entertainment, and it was cool indeed, and well-attended, but empty chairs still remained on the roof.

This means that the town’s not quite there yet, new to fashion and fame and blinking still in the glare of its new celebrity. When (and if) it goes full Hoxton, something like this will be a certain sell out. The hipster tipping point has not been reached – yet. Enjoy the peace while it lasts.

Check out the programme and book tickets for Lost Format here – don’t miss it. Or if you just fancy a drink there, it’s free to enter. 

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Ian Marvin

    I’m sure Jonny must have have risen above 37th by now . . .

  • Jeannegenius

    Sounds great – we were away but just the type of thing we’d be interested in, a classic film with live musical accompaniment. Haven’t made it to Lost Format yet, though the idea of outdoor cinema on a warm evening does appeal. Choice of film is important though and so maybe more classics with offbeat presentation like this would attract more people