David Benson has continuously created and toured solo shows since the premiere of his debut solo about Kenneth Williams in 1996, which won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh festival and has toured ever since. Benson now has twelve shows in his repertoire, and all are available for touring. Click the name of the show below to jump to information about it..
This classic one-man show unlocks the character of one of Britain’s best-loved and most-missed entertainers. In this thrilling and hilarious tour de force we see Kenneth Williams at his funniest – and at his most badly behaved. David Benson’s uncanny impersonation was also recently heard on the acclaimed BBC Radio 4 series, ‘The Private World of Kenneth Williams’.
Following its Fringe First winning debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 1996, ‘Think No Evil Of Us’ played in the West End and toured the country. It returned in 2006 for a tenth anniversary tour, to celebrate its enduring popularity both with audiences who loved Kenneth Williams and those who know nothing of his work, and continues to tour to packed houses across the country.
This brilliantly performed semi-autobiographical show also reveals how David’s unusual childhood led to an extraordinary connection with the Carry On star. Packed with scenes and dialogue that will stay with you – for life.
‘Unforgettable & inspirational theatre.’ Independent on Sunday
‘Brilliant – a truly remarkable event.’ Mail On Sunday
‘A masterpiece of comic timing.’ London Evening Standard
Runs 1 hour 40 minutes plus optional interval
2016 Tour Dates:
Tue 24 May Bedford Quarry Theatre 01352 701521
Wed 25 May St. George’s Hall 0151 225 6909
26-28 May Theatr Clwyd 01352 701521
Sat 11 June Cornerstone, Didcot 01235 515 144
Wed 22 June Redbridge Drama Centre 0208 708 8803
Sat 25 June Rondo, Bath 0333 666 3366
Fri 8 July Dundee Rep 01382 223530
Fri 15 July Theatre Royal Margate 01843 292795
Tue 16 August Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Fringe 0131 556 6550
Thu 1 September Mercury Theatre, Colchester 01206 573948
See this site for Edinburgh 2010 reviews.
When 270 people were killed in Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity, grieving father Jim Swire found his faith in his own country’s legal system shattered. His full shocking story is told in this world premiere production by writer/performer David Benson, and director Hannah Eidinow – a triple Fringe First award-winning team.
Last August, the man convicted for the bombing, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was released from jail on compassionate grounds, returning home to Libya reportedly terminally ill with prostate cancer. The second appeal against his conviction was cancelled despite multiple suggestions that a miscarriage of justice had occurred, that a key witness was bribed and coached, and that crucial evidence was faked during the original trial. Using a blend of verbatim material and dramatisation, Benson presents Swire’s ongoing struggle to find the truth in a hard-hitting piece of political theatre with international relevance.
David Benson made his solo performance debut at Edinburgh fringe in 1996 with Think No Evil Of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams, which won a Fringe First, played a West End season and continues to tour nationally. He has since become an acclaimed festival favourite. In 2008 he adapted the First World War diaries of Captain Alexander Stewart in The Stage Award nominee My Grandfather’s Great War. At the 2009 fringe, Benson wrote and performed documentary piece Doctor Whom? My Search For Samuel Johnson.
Hannah Eidinow is a double Fringe First Award winning director for political theatre pieces What I Heard About Iraq (Edinburgh 2006; UK Tour & West End 2007) and Gone (Edinburgh & West End 2004). Hannah is an associate director of The Miniaturists, a writer-led group dedicated to producing short plays and has worked with a number of established playwrights to produce shows at the Arcola. She recently directed The Lady From The Sea (Arcola) and The Ugly One (Norwich Playhouse). She is also directing the Pleasance production of Memory Cells at the Fringe this year.
‘Combines a respectful, subtle and profoundly moving performance with a mighty and unanswerable indictment of cover-up and injustice, in a show that every thinking citizen of this country should see, and act upon.’
**** The Scotsman
‘Alongside the facts, Benson’s Swire presents a series of memories. The line between theatre and life is crossed, and there are few dry eyes in the audience.’
**** Financial Times
‘David Benson, better known for his comic portrayals, is outstanding. The play is illuminating and profoundly moving.’
Fringe favourite David Benson and pianist Stewart Nicholls host a riotous celebration of music packed with show tunes, pub songs and surprise specialities. Lyrics provided, requests welcome, singing optional!
David Benson has a proven ability to show audiences a great time whilst offering new insight into some superb music, all executed with his trademarks of dark humour and plentiful entertainment. With Stewart Nicholls, he created David Benson Sings Noël Coward. They have since extensively toured the show, which takes a fresh look at the Coward songbook.
‘The audience is conducted in a mass singsong of nostalgic, fun songs. From eclectic medleys to pop quizzes on advertising jingles, this is a joyous show from start to finish.’ **** Whatsonstage.com
‘This feel-good show demonstrates that communal singing is good for the soul. Whether you are a soaring nightingale or a croaking raven, it is the ideal tonic.’ **** The Scotsman
David Benson’s new show digs into the life and work of Doctor Johnson three hundred years since his birth, and celebrates the undiminished power of his extraordinary writings and reflections. Whether you have explored Johnson’s work in detail or only know him from the Blackadder sketches, this delightful and highly personal performance will bring to life this most fascinating of characters.
Previewed at Doctor Johnson’s House, the British Library, Bristol Tobacco Factory, and the Ustinov Studio in Bath, before its premiere at the Edinburgh fringe in August 2009 (Assembly Rooms).
‘This will stimulate your mind, help soothe your soul and fire your passions. A superb piece of work that is not to be missed’
***** The Mirror (full review here)
‘It’s a must not only for Johnson enthusiasts, but for anyone who enjoys the English language, and the sound of the English language, in all its variety.’
**** Whatsonstage.com (full review here)
‘This illuminating portrait of Dr. Johnson is an enchanting anniversary tribute – 70 minutes of inspiring, imaginative entertainment.’
**** EdinburghGuide.com (full review here)
Coward’s wonderful songs brilliantly performed by David Benson, returning to the role he played in the BBC series Goodnight Sweetheart. This show premiered at the Assembly Rooms during the 2008 Edinburgh fringe, before touring in an extended version throughout 2009/10. Musical staging and piano accompaniment by Stewart Nicholls.
Featured songs include Mad Dogs and Englishmen, London Pride, Mad About the Boy, I’ll See You Again, If Love Were All, Mrs. Worthington.
When David was twelve years old his grandfather gave him a 78rpm record of Coward singing his comic patter song The Stately Homes of England. He was immediately hooked. Now at last he is set to indulge his life-long passion for these songs with this sparkling tribute to The Master.
‘David Benson has struck gold again, this time raiding Noël Coward’s songbook. He becomes the Master as he sings: dapper in tuxedo, he flutters his eyelids and delivers that clipped repartee to perfection. There’s plenty of what you’d expect – Parisian Pierrot, Mad About the Boy – and much you wouldn’t. He opens with There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner: ‘Hurray, hurray, hurray! Misery’s here to stay!’ he trills. Kinda put his finger on it, there.‘
‘Benson relates a biographical snapshot of Coward with stories and anecdotes in between the numbers. This is not impersonation per se, but, here and there, he captures his unique, cool, sophisticated manner with perfect vocal intonation. The songs – with extraordinary complex rhymes at a frenetic pace – blend Gilbert and Sullivan poetic wit with 1920s/1930s American blues, moving between the comical and sentimental. Benson has taken Coward’s classics but wisely gives them a fresh, personal and contemporary performance. The lights dim and he sings the beautiful bittersweet, “I am no good at love” and the heartbreaking ballad “Mad about the Boy” with a rich, romantic Sinatra air. With a theatre trunk of feather boas, hats and jackets, Benson sings, acts and amuses his way through this delightfully entertaining and enlightening show. As well as a smooth, multi-layered voice, his imaginative talent for mime and mannerism is quite brilliant. After 12 successful years at the Fringe, David Benson once more undoubtedly proves that he has a Coward-style Talent to Amuse.’
This funny and intimate monologue relives the rise of Blair and the demise of Diana, and asks how both have continued to effect us since.
In a tour de force of celebrity impersonation to rival his incredible Kenneth Williams show, Benson introduces a celebrity cast one by one: the Queens – Elizabeth, Elton and George, the two Toms – Hanks and Cruise, a ‘tragic but buoyant’ Michael Barrymore, all upstaged by the presence of the Queen Mother.
This show has played to sell-out crowds at the Edinburgh festival, in London and at Sydney Opera House.
“Sensitive and liberating and, often, dangerously funny” The Times
“Masterful comic insight… miss him at your peril” The Independent
“Sophisticated and touching” The Guardian
Runs 1 hour 20 minutes with no interval
Frankie Howerd – the man with the catchphrases: Titter Ye Not! Shut yer faces! Not on your Nellie! Known to millions as Lurcio the Roman slave in ‘Up Pompeii’, and as the star of innumerable films. Howerd’s career resembled a roller coaster ride – lurching from despair to triumph and back again, before ending up the toast of a new generation.
Howerd is the subject of the long-awaited follow up to David Benson’s classic Fringe First award winning show Think No Evil of Us – My Life With Kenneth Williams. Benson gets right under the skin of his subjects, to show them as they really were behind the mask of comedy. The show ends with a brilliant Frankiesque finale: a song, a frighteningly funny comedy routine and the Secret of True Happiness.
“Wonderful! Extremely funny and genuinely poignant too” Edinburgh Evening News
“Another winner for Benson!” Daily Mail
“It’s a gem! We have a rich comedy past, but we need people like Mr Benson to debunk it for us.” Independent on Sunday
David Benson’s hilarious and heart-warming shows have been seen all over the world, including a West End run for his classic Fringe First winning tribute to Kenneth Williams. His latest show, directed by David Sant of comedy troupe Peepolykus, celebrates and exposes our national obsession with stardom, featuring an amazing range of impressions along the way.
Candid revelations about modern starlets are followed by a fantasy party hosted by Noel Coward and attended by many more of David’s childhood heroes, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Orson Welles. Rat Pack revelations and Groucho Marx wisecracks flow as freely as the booze, until things take a turn for the worse…
Star Struck hilariously debunks the cult of celebrity with a little help from a real-life encounter with Quentin Crisp. It embarks on this tour having delighted audiences and critics at both the Edinburgh festival and in London’s West End.
“The dinner party of your dreams, with guests Sinatra, Coward, Astaire and Morecambe in David Benson’s musical comedy” Evening Standard Critics Choice
“His party is a blast” Independent on Sunday
“Hilarious, moving and utterly magical entertainment” Edinburgh Guide
“A bag full of great impressions” The List
Award-winning performer David Benson brings classic ghost stories to spine-chilling life in this spooky show for all the family.
What are ghosts anyway? And has anyone seen one in this theatre? Sceptic or not, you’ll think you have by the end of this deeply creepy show. Benson fills the stage with brilliant enactments of stories, including a tale about his grandfather’s ghost sightings together with new versions of classic spine-chillers.
In the comedy highlight of the show, the audience take part in a spiritualist service under the all-seeing eyes of a camp psychic. This is David Benson’s fifth solo show – best known of the Fringe First winner’s previous work is Think No Evil Of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams.
“A great big box of ghostly delights, suitable for 8 to 80 year olds. Just like the scares and thrills of watching Doctor Who as a kid. Except this time there is no sofa to hide behind.” Radio Forth
“Using little more than his camp charisma and talent for impersonation, Benson, best-known for his portraits of Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd, offers a funny, honest and poignant exploration of our relationship with the paranormal.” Metro
“It all seems very real, and very, very scary… David Benson’s Haunted Stage will delight believers and sceptics alike.” Edinburgh Evening News
Running time 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
This brilliant new comedy is a compelling collision of songs, stories and conspiracy theories, looking at the truth and fiction behind world events past and present.
Fringe First winner David Benson addresses our strange relationship with the official version of events, and considers what is so fascinating about alternative explanations, and whether they make any more sense.
Benson is joined on stage by composer Alex Silverman on the piano, playing brilliant original and classic songs to provide light relief between considering the truth and fiction behind everything from JFK to 9/11.
“Masterful comic insight. And he can sing, the swine. Miss him at your peril.” The Independent
“Even if he neglects to mention Elvis being alive on Mars, you would swear that Frank Sinatra is alive – and in excellent singing voice – here on earth” Metro
“There are actors, script-writers, comedians, stand up comics, impersonators, singers – and then there is David Benson, a theatrical enigma who does it all, with a broad, cheeky smile.” Edinburgh Guide
Nominated for Best Solo Show, The Stage Awards 2006
An intimate and funny show imbued with the uncompromising honesty and unique audience rapport that has characterised his work from the beginning. An irresistible blend of chat, characters, impersonations and sketches with a few songs throw in for good measure. The main theme of the show is how an unexpected move to Edinburgh led to him taking up acting, and eventually developing a career as a solo performer.
Edinburgh Guide – 4 stars – By Vivien Devlin
Actor, singer and comic entertainer, David Benson, has been performing at the Fringe for a staggering 24 years. The first few shows were as a schoolboy, college student and in community theatre, working his way up the professional ladder. In 1996 he stunned audiences and critics with his brilliantly perceptive portrayal of Kenneth Williams in Think no Evil of Us which won a Fringe First and catapulted him into showbiz stardom – he has never looked back. To the cynics who say the Edinburgh Fringe rarely finds new talent, Benson’s Festival fame and success tells a very different story.
Previous shows have involved humourous monologues on various themes – Princess Diana, ghosts, conspiracy theories – involving an elaborate set, costumes, music and lighting. In this new show there’s just an empty stage, a high stool and a microphone. That’s confidence for you.
The theme this year is David Benson himself, reminiscing the good times and the bad at the Fringe – the experience as an actor putting on a show. He describes the boys’ school production of a Biblical rock opera which received a dismal 2 star review, putting him off critics for life, then there’s an experimental play using real life homeless people, with affectionate impersonations of some Grassmarket characters clutching their cans of Carlsberg. Through stories, sketches and a few delightful songs, we follow Benson’s “dramatic” journey around the Fringe.
There are few performers with whom I would gladly spend an hour hearing about their life and work. But with David Benson, there is not an ounce of vanity. He is not simply an actor, but a philosopher, involving the audience, questioning our perspective and views of the world, politics and society today. And what’s more he sings like a young Frank Sinatra. This is pure Fringe theatre at its best – genuinely unique and inspiring entertainment, which reveals as much about Benson as it does about ourselves.
Fusing the camp and the sophisticated, David Benson exudes a natural charm during the songs he performs with Dean Martin-style cool, and the anecdotes that interlink them. The latter occasionally threaten to enter self-indulgence but are saved by relaxed wit and the fact that he swaps his bank manager jacket for a sequined one for the final number.
First seen in a three-week season in December 2006 at Salisbury Playhouse’s 150-seat Salberg Studio, this seasonal show sees David and piano accompanist take their audience on a jolly festive trip through a selection of songs, sketches and character scenes based around Christmas, including a traditional ghost story inspired by Dickens. The show toured in December 2007 to a rapturous response and is available again for the festive season in 2008.
One highlight of the show is an appearance of David’s alter ego, Dame Foxy Trot, in full panto regalia. Foxy is followed on stage by rebellious cow Daisy, with the help of some willing audience members. A perfect alternative offering to pantomime; whilst suitable for older children, it has also proved popular with groups of adults such as office outings.
In 2007 and 2008 the show once again toured through the Christmas period.