Writer and Performer: David Benson
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
The driving force of this one-man show is the superb skill of David Benson’s mimicry.Recreating the snorting laugh and haughty tones of camp comic Kenneth Williams is guaranteed to bring an outbreak of giggles from an audience generously made up of people from the bus-pass fraternity, and Benson’s ability to ape others adds Frankie Howerd, Noel Coward, and the cast of Dad’s Army as a bonus.
Benson’s claim to share a life with the great man is that Williams read a story onJackanory,calledThe Rag and Bone Manpenned by the 13-year-old Benson (then Hodgson). It was clearly the start of a successful career as a theatre writer, singer and impersonator.
Before the Carry On films made Williams a comedy screen classic with his gormless expressions (excellently echoed by Benson) he had been a huge hit on radio with Round the Horne and Hancock’s Half Hour.It must have been society’s relative innocence that allowed Williams as Sandy and Hugh Paddick as Julian to get away with their outrageous homosexual innuendo in the days when its practices were outlawed.It’s widely believed that Williams was elbowed out of Hancock because he was too funny – his “No, stop messing’ about” catchphrase always receiving huge audience approval.
As the show unfolds Benson’s genuine affection for the much-tortured star shines through, giving the performance the moving humanity required. He taps into Williams’ well-known obsession about not allowing other people using his toilet.There is a dark spell where Benson treats us to the climax of his own mother’s descent into madness. This is doubtless meant as a counterpoint to Williams’ distraught mind which may have led to his death through an overdose in 1988 at 62.The detail and time spent on this part where he shares the very removal of his mother from the home is too self-indulgent and distracts from the overall feel of the show. The audience are clearly more comfortable and appreciative of re-living the classic Williams tones.
Later we are treated to the brash and boorish way in which Williams holds court in a public restaurant but is typically rude to any customer who approaches him. It also suggests that Williams’ behaviour was affected by drink. Quite fun, but once again, too long, However, the show is a great chance for anyone who wants to relive the wonderful magic of Kenneth Williams, and to Carry on Laughing.
Reviewed on 25 May, 2016.