YORK composer, pianist, busker, tutor and Buster Keaton aficionado Kieran White will be Breaking The Silents at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre on Saturday.

Accompanied by White’s expressive, playful, gag-driven piano score, two Stoneface silent classics will be shown that day “as they were originally intended to be seen in an authentic re-creation of the early cinema experience in the picture houses of the 1920s”.

The General, at 2.30pm, will be followed by Steamboat Bill, Jr at 7.30pm, but Kieran, why would someone want to see a black-and white, silent Buster Keaton film in 2019, the age of endless reheated Disney classics and myriad Marvel movies?

“We live in an instant world. A world governed by consumerism and technology. What we want we can get just by clicking a mouse. We have forgotten how to slow down. How to breathe,” he says. “But Buster takes us back to a time when time itself was a different thing entirely. A time when moments were savoured, rather than squandered.”

White anticipates a largely middle-aged and older audiences, but he believes Keaton’s comedic should appeal to “anyone with a love of history, a nostalgia for days of yore and an unfettered imagination”.

“Breaking The Silents offers a wonderful day out for all the family,” he says. “A lot of belly laughs. An appreciation of Buster’s incredible athleticism and craftmanship but, most of all, a reawakening of that state of wonderment that children have but never know they have.”

The relentless pace of Keaton’s comedy on screen leaves no gap, no rest, no breath, in White’s score, but still he finds room for quickfire references to Coronation Street, Wagner and even The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

“The joy of these films is the raw energy,” says Kieran. “You know that if the stunts went wrong then would be no take two.”

White’s labours of love necessitated 11 days of writing for The General, a little longer for Steamboat Bill, Jr, drawing on his love of both Keaton’s comic craft and the piano.

“I was very inspired by my grandfather,” he says, explaining why piano was his instrument of choice. “He was a superb pianist and made the most complex music sound effortless.

“Ever since a very early age, I’ve been fascinated by puzzles too, particularly chess. Watching Pop play was like sitting inside a gigantic engine, seeing gears mesh, listening to the sound of tiny hammers. Music chose me!”

White’s piano has accompanied screenings of The General at locations as diverse as Helmsley Arts Centre, the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton Park and City Screen and Fairfax House in York. Now he adds the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, York, to that list.

“It is such a unique, warm, intimate theatre that has such history and has a special atmosphere created by its army of volunteers,” says Kieran. “I feel that the ushers in immaculate attire, who adore the theatre, will help recreate the 1920s; feel.”

Where next might Breaking The Silents venture? “I think what I do is unique. Ultimately, I’d love to perform all over the world,” says Kieran.

In the meantime, here is a recommendation from York filmmaker Mark Herman, director of Brassed Off and Little Voice, to head to the JoRo for this weekend’s brace of Keaton and White shows. “It's a shame that Buster Keaton never knew that his flawless performance could actually be enhanced,” he says.

Tickets are on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Charles Hutchinson