Preview: Charlie Chaplin Triple Bill, Sadler's Wells, London

The sweet sound of silents
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The Independent Culture

Resourceful chap, that Carl Davis. Booked to conduct his own original score for an old Nureyev-Fonteyn silent film at Sadler's Wells, and finding it blocked by contractual problems, he decided to keep the dates by bringing two more scores out of the attic. Now Davis will conduct Chaplin's score for his masterpiece Modern Times, plus his own score for The Rink, which was one of the 25-minute shorts which Chaplin shot in 1917. There were 12 of these, collectively titled The Mutuals, and Davis has scored them all: "My dream is to do them all over one weekend, but meanwhile I'm using them as curtain-raisers."

Charlie Chaplin always modestly said he la-la'd his scores, as he had no music education whatsoever, but as soon as he was able to record music he controlled his own soundtracks, on which he was helped by an army of long-suffering amanuenses. "The score for Modern Times is the best of the lot, because he had a marvellous composer called David Raksin," says Davis. "And he had such a horrendous time with Chaplin that they never worked together again. But the result is superb, especially the opening sequences in the factory."

Davis is still slightly bemused at the way his life has been taken over by film music. It all began with Thames's Hollywood series in the 1970s, which developed into the Thames Silents, which were then taken by Jeremy Isaacs at Channel 4. By the time the collaboration ended, Davis had done 30 scores, which he is now performing all over the world. "It's an absolutely global thing - these images mean something to every culture. I've just been doing some Chaplins in Kuala Lumpur - they may have a heavily religious culture, yet they've lapped them up - and I'm about to do Ben Hur in Pamplona."

Those of us who still regard Napoleon as Davis's supreme achievement may soon get another chance to see it. Davis is raring to take the show on the road.

9-10 April (0870 733 3900;