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Benny review at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh – ‘unimaginative biopic of a comedy legend’

Liam Tobin in Benny, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh. Photo: Kirsten McTernan Liam Tobin in Benny, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh. Photo: Kirsten McTernan
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When Benny Hill died in 1992, his body lay undiscovered for two days. His career as a comedian had been over for some time, but during those two days millions of people around the world would have been watching him on television. Hill was a comic nurtured in the variety halls but never warmed to them. When the opportunity arose for television work, Hill embraced the new medium and developed a style and formula based on silent-movie techniques.

Hill is still hugely popular around the world today and Owen Thomas’ informative one-man show offers Hill a chance to tell his own story. The non-linear narrative is a little disorientating but amid the Wikipedia-style fact-fest, there is an attempt to make a tie-in with Hill’s performance as Bottom in the 1964 television version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Thomas draws parallels between the character and Hill’s life and punctuates his text with pertinent quotes.

While Liam Tobin bears absolutely no physical resemblance to Hill, he does a fairly decent impression, but struggles to engage his audience. Video sequences add little to the fairly doughy texture of this biopic, although the recreation of one of Hill’s Yakety Sax chases raises a smile.

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Unimaginative biopic of a comedy legend