Theatre in Wales

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"The creative team of Tobin, Bale and Thomas- great heart and humour”

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Fringe Management, LLC- Benny , Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh , August-16-18
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Fringe Management, LLC- Benny “Great wits are to madness near allied.” That was John Dryden in the seventeenth century. The line of desperate clowns in performance runs from “Pagliacci” to Terry Johnson and his award-winning “Dead Funny”, a play about geek-fans of pioneer television comedians. Johnson was back directing his 1994 comedy in the West End in 2017. A solo show about Eric Morecambe was a hit at the Fringe some years back (reviewed here September 1st, 2009) and went on to tour England and Wales.

The tears that are masked by laughter fascinate. My place of work for five years was neighbour to the home of Kenneth Williams. In the street, where we passed a half-dozen times, that so familiar face was in life a tombstone. The face of Frankie Howerd, creased with smiles in performance, looked mournful in the light of day. Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill died within a day of one another.

“Benny” has been seen at Chapter and briefly at the Torch before heading north. The trio of talent behind it, Liam Tobin, Gareth John Bale and Owen Thomas, pleased the reviewers of Scotland.

The List was first to be at “Benny” on 2nd August

“This engaging one-man show offers an insightful reflection into the life of British comedian Benny Hill. Slapstick and double entendre maestro Hill, renowned for living frugally despite immense wealth, died alone, to be discovered in his flat two days later. Liam Tobin's performance is confident and affable as a post-death Hill delivering an aural autobiography, and the show's success lies in the strength of the script and delivery. The rhythmic, natural writing takes the audience through the highs and lows in Hill's quest to succeed.

“...The most genuine moments come from the character's discussion of his loneliness. The common dichotomy of fame runs through the script: what's the point of sharing a stage or screen with millions of people, if you don't have people to share your life with? Benny entertainingly explores what it's like to crave the limelight, and to be rejected by it.”

Edinburgh Review saw the show a week on, August 10th

“This affectionate and engaging one-man show tells the story of the famous funny man, following his career from its earliest failures to global success and beyond.

"The later years of the story – when The Benny Hill Show might draw a TV audience of twenty million – are well-known, but the details of his early struggles provide some interesting insights. It was the chronic stage fright and hostile audiences that Hill had experienced in the music halls which led him to TV; he could perform to millions of people without having to see any one of them.

“The show celebrates some of the familiar comic songs – like Garden of Love - with their strained wordplay and saucy innuendo. Ernie is re-written to great effect with Benny as the new hero. There are tiny but satisfying cameos of other comedians – Frankie Howerd, Eric Morecambe, Syd James, Bob Monkhouse; Liam Tobin is quite a talented impressionist. Some of Benny’s best loved characters like Fred Scuttle and Chow Mein also make instantly recognisable, if brief, appearances.

“...We are reminded that, throughout his long career, Hill consistently deflected any questions about his private life with jokey replies. He was an intensely private man who loved to be the centre of attention, but only behind a comedy mask. He managed to ensure that we never got to know him.”

Reviewsphere was there most recently, 15th August

“Names stick. Hence why Alfred Hawthorne Hill changed his forename to Benny. The former, according to the excellent Liam Tobin in the title role, sounding like a “low-grade solicitor”; the latter inspired by the American entertainer Jack Benny.
But it was another name which stuck like mud and prompted the beginning of the end for the performer once dubbed “the most famous comedian on earth” who at the height of his career commanded a television audience of over 100 million fans, including such luminaries as Michael Jackson and another comedy hero Charlie Chaplin.

...“Unlike some of the other one-man shows about yesteryear entertainers at the Fringe, Benny, directed by Gareth John Bale, is more of a drama than an impersonation and gag-fest. Though Liam Tobin is physically and vocally adept at both, with Frankie Howerd, Bob Monkhouse and Eric Morecambe making fleeting guest appearances.

“...The recurring themes being his determination to succeed, his resilience in the face of setbacks, a defence of his saucy style (the girls provided the glamour he couldn’t) and frugal existence (“I never wanted stuff”), and his struggle to retain his privacy in the face of increasing press scrutiny.

“...An ending which would have pleased Hill who only wanted to make people laugh and feel better about themselves. A wish which the creative team of Tobin, Bale and Thomas fulfilled with great heart and humour”

The reviews can be read in full at:

https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/102407-benny/

http://www.edinburghguide.com/festival/2018/edinburghfringe/bennygildedballoonteviotreview-19364

https://www.reviewsphere.org/news/theatre-review-benny/

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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