In the course of a dyspeptic and wildly entertaining diatribe in his novel Flaubert's Parrot, Julian Barnes inveighs against contemporary fiction listing genres of the novel that should henceforth be banned. All novels in which characters are known by a letter of the alphabet rather than a name, and such like.
Renowned for the cheeriness of my disposition, the exuberant warmth of my bonhomie and my overwhelming enthusiasm with nary a hint of criticism, it is of course unimaginable that I should be so impertinent as to issue a similar directive with regard to unborn plays.
And yet... does anyone really want to sit through another one in which two (or more) famous people meet, talk and do nothing other than air the dramatist's research? Are you honestly ready to queue for a musical based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots (Oh, Mary!) or George Eliot (By George!), for example?
Bed-wetting and soot- juggling do not readily lend themselves to drama and if I ever have to see another solo show on the life of Sylvia Plath I shall be tempted to let my life mimic art and end my days nestling in the kitchen. To be quite brutal about it, I think I want to ban all one-person shows. All that is, except David Benson's Think No Evil of Us: My Life with Kenneth Williams.
I know what you're thinking: he's trawled through the Williams diaries and letters, earwigged Round the Horne and manages a decent imitation. Wrong. Eschewing all direct quotes from the recent biographical bonanza, Benson creates an exceptionally vivid portrait of the man and the performer, but his piercingly funny and surprisingly moving show has nothing to do with slavish fandom or dull mimicry and everything to do with acute observation and the fashioning of material into a coherent whole, taking you to people and places you never expected.
This show has already won Benson a richly deserved Fringe First. That, I predict, is just the beginning.Reuse content