You are viewing an archived production from GöteborgsOperan.

Back to main site

Charlie Chaplin 2009

World premiere 12 September on the Skövde stage.

With laughter as his weapon he challenged those with power. Now we tell the story of Charlie Chaplin in his own way.

Music Theatre by Leo Cullborg. Music by Charlie Chaplin.

“... a histrionic achievement of distinction.” (Lars Hjertner as Chaplin) GP

On a beautiful autumn day in 1952 the Queen Elisabeth left New York’s harbour. Alone on the afterdeck stands an elegantly clad gentleman who sees the mighty city disappear into the heat haze. His name is Charlie Chaplin.

He reflects on all that has happened since he came to the land of opportunity forty years ago. Then he was an unknown English vaudeville artist, now the entire world knows who he is. However, few people would recognise him there as he stands; without his bowler hat, his stick, or his shoes that were too big for him, and especially, without his little moustache. Who then, was this Charlie Chaplin? While millions of people all over the world loved him, he was hated by others.

Perhaps because in every part of his artistic life he challenged power and stupidity. His weapon was laughter and ridicule and this led to his acquisition of enemies of great distinction: Adolf Hitler, J.Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy were a few of them. With the help of Chaplin’s own imaginative moves, and not least his own music, we would like to tell his story. Our Chaplin takes us with him to as greatly different events as Hitler’s birth, an evening at the Music Hall and the Wall Street Crash, that was depicted by Chaplin as a dance number! We get to see how to deaden a loudspeaker with the help of a violin and to witness the incipient romance between Chaplin and the transatlantic liner’s women's orchestra – The Adorables.

Charlie Chaplin on tour.

  • 24 Sept / Steneby / 0702-71 78 62
  • 25 Sept / Ånimskog / 0532-220 86
  • 26 Sept / Hermansby / 0303-22 55 13
  • 27 Sept / Nossebro / 0512-503 29
  • 1 Oct / Seglora / 0320-183 00
  • 2 Oct / Vrångö / 0706-87 50 02
  • 3 Oct / Ulricehamn / 0321-59 59 59
  • 4 Oct / Sätila / 0301-421 12
  • 7 Oct / Torsö / 0501-212 48
  • 8 Oct / Korsberga / 0503-403 73
  • 9 Oct / Moholm / 0506-207 23
  • 10 Oct / Grolanda / 0705-23 31 94
  • 13 Oct / Hjo / 0503-105 90
  • 3 Nov / Hova / 0506-300 89
  • 4 Nov / Ljungstorp / 0511-606 79
  • 7 Nov / Fredsberg / 0703-34 27 37
  • 8 Nov / Rackeby / 0510-160 28
  • 12 Nov / Hunnebostrand / 0523-66 46 54 / The performance is canceled
  • 13 Nov / Eggvena / (helabonnerad) / The performance is canceled
  • 14 Nov / Vårgårda / 0322-62 06 24
  • 15 Nov / Åttersrud / 0737-47 16 61
  • 18 Nov / Hjärtum / 0706-55 01 72
  • 19 Nov / Strömstad / 0526-623 30
  • 20 Nov / Bokenäs / 0522-65 08 55
  • 21 Nov / Ekby / 0501-310 42
  • 25 Nov / Sventorp / 0500-42 60 53
  • 27 Nov / Undenäs / 0505-170 30
  • 28 Nov / Härja / 0502-100 58

Looks good in Chaplin’s suit.

Lars Hjertner
Lars HjertnerIngmar Jernberg

Cine genius, composer, satirist, ladies’ man. Persona non grata in the US – acclaimed all over the world. In a newly written production we go for a rollercoaster ride between the extremes in Charlie Chaplin’s life.

Without being aware of it, Lars Hjaertner, musical performer at GöteborgsOperan, has lived with Charlie Chaplin from childhood.
– As a child I heard a piece of music, a tune that got stuck in my head. I had no idea what it was. Many years later I heard it again, on the radio, but there was no mention of what it was. When, during the spring, I received the script for the production, I also received an exceptional gift: there was the piece of music! It proved to be Eternally, by Chaplin. It makes me think that somehow I must be meant to do this.
– Charlie Chaplin undertook a tremendous life-journey, from the verge of poverty to unparalleled wealth. At one point in time he had an annual salary that exceeded what all the senators of the United States earned together.
– He was a born entertainer and was passed at an early age, through fortunate circumstances, into the world of cinema and came to change that world. Without any previous technical knowledge, he applied his experience from his years as a young stage actor. He was convinced that he did everything best himself. This might very well be true but he rode roughshod over many people on the way.

Carin Arell

Excerpt of article from GO nyheter no. 4 © 2009.

The playful person – a public danger?

In the autumn of 1952, on his way to Europe, Chaplin receives the message that he is no longer welcome in the US. What was it that scared certain social circles in the US so awfully? What did they get so worked up about? How could a little silly comedian be a danger to a social system? Is it the playful person who is dangerous? Who, by his/her attitude, challenges the powerful in such a way that the powerful are unable to respond? Power never plays. When Chaplin was threatened with an interrogation before the Senate in Washington he sent a message to say that he would willingly appear but demanded to be permitted to come as The Little Tramp. He was never called. Is it perhaps so that the playful person constitutes a serious threat to power and order?

So, does Charlie Chaplin have anything to say to us today, apart from making us laugh? He urges us to constantly revolt against power, stupidity and oppression!

Leo Cullborg

Leo Cullborg
Leo Cullborg, director


The collapse of the stock market on Wall Street and the depression.


The collapse of the stock market on Wall Street and the subsequent depression was one of the greatest economical collapses of all time. While Europe was badly wounded by the First World War, The US could produce in peace and quiet and, after the war, export to a Europe whose economy and production had been totally shattered. The rebuilding of Europe during the 1920s was to a great extent financed by loans from the US. In the United States “The Roaring Twenties” prevailed, belief in the future was unimpaired, the economy prospered and there was a firm view that the times of prosperity could never come to an end. Speculation in shares and land was extensive and the gaps in income increased. Many people earned enormous amounts of money during the financial boom of the 20s. In 1929 5% of the population earned 33% of the income, while 42% of the population had an annual salary of 1,500 dollars or less, which scarcely covered the most basic needs. Agriculture expanded and the US could export a great quantity of grain to Europe, where food production had in many cases almost ceased entirely. Meanwhile, this optimistic view of progress rested on an increasingly shaky foundation.

Europe recovered after the war and imports from the US decreased. This caused problems for American farmers who no longer had a market in the same way as before. At the same time interest had to be paid on loans taken during the expansion. The American economy was beginning to run out of steam. The economy had been structured in such a way that it could only function through continued development. The price of shares tumbled, the farmers could not pay off their loans, prices were kept up and salaries down. But the slump could not be staved off and in the end wheat was cheaper than sawdust. “Grain was burnt up. It was cheaper than coal. Maize was burnt up. In South Dakota the granaries put maize up for minus three cents a bushel. If you wanted to sell a bushel of maize to them you had to have three cents with you.”

Pressbild chaplin_05_100
Lars Hjertner (Charlie Chaplin) Harald Jonsson
“... in the end wheat was cheaper than sawdust.”

Many farmers went bankrupt and the banks were given land as security. The US was running out of money. The loans to Europe were cut and they began to demand the repayment of old loans, but the European banks could not pay. Germany in particular also had to effect considerable payment for war indemnity. The major European banks collapsed like houses of cards and spread the crisis back to New York. On 24–25 October 1929 there was a formidable outbreak of panic on Wall Street. Some support purchases curbed the trend for a few days, but on 29 October the bubble burst. Total panic broke out and the slump was tremendous.

The consequences were dramatic. Over the next three to four years US production sank by 50% and unemployment increased by 25%, which meant 16 million people. During this period 9,000 banks had to close down in the US alone for the simple reason that there was no more money. The unemployed were referred to the help they could get from family and friends. Social insurance and unemployment funds were non-existent. “I used to get up at five in the morning and go down to the harbour. Outside Speckle’s sugar refinery, outside the gates, there were a thousand men. You knew damned well that there were only three or four jobs.”

“...unemployment increased by 25%, which meant 16 million people.”

A worker’s salary at this time could be about 2–3 dollars a day, which was the equivalent of around 10–15 Swedish kronor. Exclusion from the employment market was considerable and queues to the soup kitchens and bread handouts were long. The depression also led to an increased crime rate. “This epoch led to crime when old ways of thinking and conceptions collided with the reality of the time. When a policeman or fireman did not get paid, how on earth could he be expected to maintain what he knew to be law and order?” When Roosevelt took office as president in 1933 he initiated a programme of measures to deal with the crisis – the New Deal. The programme included a number of, for the time, drastic measures: the banking system was secured; unemployment benefits and retirement pensions were implemented. Minimum wages, maximum working hours and the prohibition of child labour were promulgated.

A number of employment opportunities were introduced in the public sector and a national agricultural policy that, among other things, would guarantee minimum prices for farmers was implemented. The content of the New Deal was the same as was propounded by the economist J.M. Keynes. For the first time in the US the government went in and regulated parts of the market. In times of economic crisis the government must work with a budget deficit in order to ensure a high level of employment until such time as the economic situation turns. The effect of the New Deal was that unemployment decreased and the economy stabilised and began to grow. However, in 1938 more than 9% of people were unemployed in the US. The depression would not be completely over in the United States until after the Second World War.

The above citations are taken from Studs Terkel: Hårda Tider, Norstedts 1970.

Niklas Fahlén

Chaplin’s life in point form.

  • 1889 Charles Chaplin is born in London on the 16th of April. Adolf Hitler is born on the 20th of April the same year.
  • 1898 begins to perform with the Eight Lancashire Lads in Manchester.
  • 1908 signs his first contract with Fred Karno’s vaudeville ensemble.
  • 1910 signs his second contract with Fred Karno American Company
    for a tour in the US.
  • 1912 participates in a second US tour with Fred Karno.
  • 1913 signs his first film contract with Keystone Film company for
    a salary of $150 per week.
  • 1914 signs a contract with Essanay for a salary of $1,250 per week.
  • 1916 at the age of 27, signs a contract with Mutual Film Corporation for
    a salary of $10,000 per week plus a bonus of $150,000.
  • 1918 gets married to Mildred Harris.
  • 1920 gets divorced from Mildred Harris.
  • 1924 gets married to Lita Grey.
  • 1925 Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr is born.
  • 1926 Chaplin’s second son Sidney Earle Chaplin is born.
  • 1927 gets divorced from Lita Grey.
  • 1936 gets married to Paulette Goddard.
  • 1942 gets divorced from Paulette Goddard, meets Oona O’Neill.
  • 1943 gets married to Oona O’Neil.
  • 1952 travels to Europe. Finds out during the trip that he will not be
    issued a new visa for the US.
  • 1953 settles in Vevey in Switzerland.
  • 1975 is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
  • 1977 passes away in his home in Vevey in Switzerland.

A selection of Chaplin films.

  • 1917 “Easy Street” and “The Immigrant”
  • 1918 “Shoulder Arms”
  • 1921 “The Kid”
  • 1925 “The Gold Rush”
  • 1928 “The Circus”
  • 1931 “City Lights”
  • 1936 “Modern Times”
  • 1940 “The Great Dictator”
  • 1947 “Monsieur Verdoux”’
  • 1952 “Limelight”
  • 1957 “A King in New York”
  • 1967 “A Countess from Hong Kong”

All in all Charlie Chaplin participated in 80 films during his career.


  • Genre: Musical
  • Season: 2009/2010
  • First show: 12 Sep 2009
  • Last show: 28 Nov 2009
  • Location:

    Skövde Stage, Skövde

  • Length: 2 hours, including 1 interval.
  • Info:Skövdescenen and on tour in the region


Director   Leo Cullborg
Set and Light Design   Thorsten Dahn
Costume Design   Elisabeth Åström
Choreography   Peter Svenzon

Role list

Conductor and musician   Per Larsson
Musician   Kerstin Anderson
Charlie Chaplin   Lars Hjertner
Musician   Maria Wigander


Play Interval