David Benson's comic tour de force is back again in London, this time making a welcome appearance at the beleaguered Kings Head where the far from mellifluous tones of Kenneth Williams will once more be happily rasping through the auditorium.
Williams had one of those richly memorable voices that just begs for impersonation, but, good as Benson undoubtably is at capturing every vocal nuance and mannerism of the man, this is by no means just a night of straightforward mimicry. What lends this show its distinctive appeal is the way Benson fuses his presentation of a clever, complex individual with pivotal incidents from his own childhood, thus adding real depth and illumination to his completely engrossing portrayal. The first section is pure Williams, continuing in this vein until the man's self-pity leads Benson to seamlessly ease himself out of character and begin reminding the comic of his many blessings.
The famous star of a legion of Carry On films and justly celebrated for his skills as a raconteur, Williams felt fundamentally unfulfilled, applauded for the camp persona he created whilst overlooked as an actor. He seems not have fully appreciated the particular niche he'd created in the nation, beloved as a British institution. Suffering from chronic bowel problems, he was often at the mercy of his health - something Benson chronicles with witty perspicacity in an entertaining restaurant scene that features Williams, as the dinner guest from hell.
Moments sad and sublime jostle for attention as the contradictory elements of the comic's character are filtered through an impersonation both affectionate and perceptive. There's still some contention as to whether or not Williams's death in 1988 was a misjudgement or a deliberate act but the emphasis here falls on the latter interpretation which seems persuasive in the light of the Diaries. It's an assured, highly engaging performance, beautifully timed and deeply poignant that manages to pay tribute to the man whilst still probing the melancholy underbelly pervading his life.