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David Benson x 2 Aug 16

David Benson – Why Pay More?” at the Pleasance is the third of David Benson‘s one man shows I’ve seen at the Fringe, following last year’s “Conspiracy Cabaret” and 2004’s “Haunted Stage”. There is less of a central theme than to those shows , but once again Benson’s material is strongly autobiographical. It’s a mixture of songs and anecdotes, a deceptively gentle set with sudden and surprising moments of pathos. Benson is engaging and charismatic when himself and thoroughly convincing when he brings to life the various and varied characters in his stories. This is neither comedy nor theatre but an entertaing, thoughtful and enjoyable show.

The same day, I went to see “Think No Evil of Us: My Life with Kenneth Williams“, the award-winning show which brought Benson acclaim when he first performed it in 1996 and which has returned to the Festival for its tenth anniversary. (Five shows of the ten show run remain as the time of writing.) It’s a touching mixture of biography and autobiography, bounding from scenes from Williams’s life to scenes from Benson’s, from soliloquy to audience interaction, and from comedy to tragedy.

Benson’s definitive portrayal of Williams is uncanny and a little eerie, not so much an impersonation but a real recreation of his not especially likeable character. Benson shows off his skills further as the voices of Frankie Howerd, Maggie Smith and most of the cast of Dad’s Army make appearances too. But this funny, affecting show is about Williams and Benson – raw and personal for both of them – and ten years on there’s no question the Fringe First award it won was well-deserved.

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