With so much variety in the opportunities to enjoy life these days, the get up and go out people are always looking for that something extra, that something with a difference, so this new underground silent movie venue – Down the Shaft – will tick that box.
Midnight Apothecary, the award-winning pop-up campfire cocktail bar that has built up quite a reputation from the rooftop of the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe since 2012, has launched an exciting new film club directly beneath its garden in one of London’s most secret and unusual underground venues, the Victorian underground Grand Entrance Hall to Brunel’s Thames Tunnel.
‘Down the Shaft Film Club’ launches its season on Thursday 2 May with some classic silent cinema featuring local Southwark icon, pioneer and hero Charlie Chaplin, as well as two Laurel & Hardy shorts, and all three films accompanied on grand piano by the virtuoso talents of the UK’s leading silent film piano accompanists Meg Morley (2 May) and Neil Brand (16 May). You can look forward to Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Easy Street’ (1917) a Laurel & Hardy’s ‘Big Business’ (1929) and ‘Liberty’ (1929).
Truly one of Charlie Chaplin’s finest and most enduring short films, Easy Street sees Chaplin playing The Little Tramp who becomes a police constable who must fight a huge thug that dominates an inner-city street. The look and feel of ‘Easy Street’ evokes the South London of Charlie Chaplin’s childhood, with some stating that Easy Street could be Walworth’s East Street – the street near his birthplace. It’s a film that walks a fine line between humour and pathos.
Unlike the athletic antics of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy’s based their comedy around mannerisms, reactions and silly situations, But in ‘Liberty’ (1929) we find them out of their depth quite literally, high above the city in a half built skyscraper. Liberty was one of Laurel & Hardy’s last silent films, and to many fans their funniest ever film. This film has it all. With the police hot on their tail as two escaped convicts, Stan and Ollie attempt to change clothes in their getaway car only to find themselves struggling to balance on top of the girders of an unfinished building. They were comedic geniuses and this film shows them at the peak of their game.
Big Business (1929) finds the duo as Christmas tree salesmen trying to sell their wares door to door in California in the summer. It is many people’s favourite Laurel & Hardy silent film.
Lottie Muir, founder of Midnight Apothecary, said: ‘Midnight Apothecary is a celebration of wild cocktails, campfire and camaraderie in the city. What better way to spend the evening than enjoying some fireside merriment in an enchanted candle-lit roof garden before descending underground into a unique historic venue to celebrate the work of local Southwark legend Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy”
Guests are invited to arrive from 6pm for campfire, wild cocktails, local beer, hot toddies and sizzling seasonal street food (not included in the price of the ticket) in the candle-lit secret roof garden. They will descend underground at 7.30pm for the films. The campfire, complimentary toasted marshmallows and streetfood will be available before and between the films.
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, SE16 4Lf. Times: 7.30m 2nd & 16th May. Admission: £25 and numbers are strictly limited. Tickets: https://www.themidnightapothecary.co.uk