Owen Thomas: Benny, a life story as interesting as it is unknown

August 31, 2017 by

Having enjoyed some success with Grav, I was keen to develop my skills as a writer by creating another one man show. I was also conscious that I wanted to explore a character in contrast to Grav. Benny is a one man show about the life of legendary British comedian Benny Hill. His life story is as interesting as it is unknown. This year marks the 25th anniversary of his passing, and his work, in my opinion, is ripe for reappraisal. A polarising figure whose comedy has often been accused of sexism and misogyny, he was, for a period, the most successful comedian on the planet.

The play is not simply a straightforward retelling or celebration of his life and work, but unashamedly theatrical and incorporating multimedia. His life story is told using his comedy style and techniques to illustrate key moments. When Benny Hill died in April 1992 his body lay undiscovered in his flat for two days. During these two days, his programmes were watched by an audience of millions all around the world. This juxtaposition of acclaim and solitude is, in my opinion as a writer, a dramatically fascinating start point. Consequently, the play is set in these two lost days.

Benny is directed by Gareth John Bale and features Liam Tobin in the title role. I have worked with Gareth on a range of projects in the past including Grav (in which he played the title role) and Richard Parker. This is the first time I have worked with Liam. We are really lucky to have secured the services of such a fine actor and I am excited for people to see the character he has created.

We have also been supported by a wealth of other talented artists as we bring this piece to life. Ruth Hall has designed an exquisite set and together with Jacqui George, our production manager, is working hard to ensure that this play is as visually arresting as it can be. We have also been working with Paul Whittaker, a renowned Cardiff-based filmmaker and writer, who has been helping to ensure that our vision for the play having a multimedia facet to it comes to fruition. It has also been terrific to have the services of so many wonderful actors, friends and performers too numerous to name who have got involved with filming cameo appearances, musical expertise and voiceovers.

We know that producing a show like this is somewhat uncharted territory for Chapter Arts Centre, but the team have been really supportive in bringing this play to life. I have always loved their willingness as a venue to take risks and it is great to see them getting behind a piece of new writing.

Benny Hill may or may not be your cup of tea as a performer. In that regard, this play does not set out to be one-sided, but a balanced exploration of what made him the man that he was. It is written to acknowledge that the huge success he achieved in his lifetime surely merits having the opportunity to look again at the lad himself. I hope you will come along one evening next week and see the play for yourself.


Benny runs at Chapter 6-9 September at 8pm with a 3pm Matinee on 9 September. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.chapter.org or ring the Box Office

Review: http://www.asiw.co.uk/reviews/benny-owen-thomas-chapter-arts-centre

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