Review Benny by Helen Joy

 

(4 / 5)

 

CHAPTER IN ASSOCIATION WITH GARETH JOHN BALE AND OWEN THOMAS

This is very uncomfortable viewing in a very small intimate space. We are witnesses to a private life in a public space.

Laughing at jokes our present vox populi disdains. Awkward. Funny. Have we forgotten that some things are just funny? Not sexist, dirty, grubby, misogynist, vile, elitist. Just funny.

From the mid 1980s onwards, we start to judge. We start to create a view of things humorous according to an assumed view of things social, socially acceptable. We start to judge a man according to his popularity, his means. Mean, they said. Was he?

Was Benny even half the terrible things we said he was? How refreshing to get another view.

Not mean but normal. Not lecherous but admiring. Not base but witty.

Hugely popular for years, a hard-working comic who paved the path others trod. A quiet man. A man who sat in his chair and who we all like to think died in shame and misery and silence.

Silence, yes. Peace, yes. The peace of his own home, his own chair.

Why do we fear being alone in death so much? What else have we, the populi, also lost along with our ability to judge individually and in context?

Our vox seems louder than ever but is it shouting down the debate and silencing the dissenters? Uncomfortable viewing indeed.

An outstanding, enjoyable, humane performance by Liam Tobin. Clever direction, clever script. Enough hopping back and for through time to make it theatre, not so much as to make it contrived.

I absolutely loved the final scene – the main man, the person, Benny, playing out of the television and over his room, his chair, his body. Playing that tune, that background music to life as we know it.

Very, very good stuff indeed.

It is a grey audience tonight. How would a younger audience react, I wonder. It would be interesting to show a Benny Hill programme beforehand. Even more interesting to get each member of the audience’s honest reactions.

Could be a shocker!

Oh and I sat next to someone who knew someone who knew one of Benny’s Angels… and she had had a blast!

Performed by Liam Tobin

Written by Owen Thomas

Directed by Gareth John Bale

 Reviewed by Helen Joy, 3rd Act Critic for Get the Chance, Friday 9th September

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