Comic and political greats come together in Canning Town

Wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on the wall at a unique meeting between two giants of their time - Charlie Chaplin and Mahatma Gandhi.

What did they talk about in 1931? Now a group of Newham youngsters will be working alongside professional theatre artists to bring alive the story the meeting in east London between the pair.

Pupils from Eastlea Community School in Canning Town are producing a play called When Chaplin Met Gandhi under the name Eastlea Theatre Company in association with The Royal Docks Trust.

The play is written by Jim Kenworth and is based on the true events of 1931 when British-born Hollywood star Charlie Chaplin requested a meeting with the father of Indian independence and non-violent protest Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi was in London but instead of staying in a West End hotel he chose to live in an east London community centre. Charlie Chaplin was also in London at the same time for the British premiere of City Lights and wanted to meet Gandhi.

Gandhi had no idea who Chaplin was and the comic was dismissed by his secretaries as ‘just a buffoon’ but when he learnt that Chaplin’s art was rooted in the life of working people and that his movies gave a voice to the plight of the poor, he agreed to the meeting.

It will star Kulvinder Ghir, star of Bend It Like Beckham and Goodness Gracious Me as Gandhi.

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Its first performance will be held at Eastlea Community School on February 11. In July 2010 students from the school were involved in acting scenes from the first draft of the play - then called When Gandhi Met Chaplin - in Canning Town.

The production was performed at the Canning Town site for LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre). Since then the playwright has received a grant from the Royal Docks Trust to produce a fuller version of the play with the aim of showing it in a public venue in May 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad.