Written by Mark Carey
Music by Kevin Oliver Jones
Produced by Giles Shenton
Performed by Mark Carey & Dani Carbery
Benny Hill died alone in his spartan flat in 1992, he was 68. His body was undiscovered for several days.
Benny was, had been and still is, one of the most successful comedians of all time.
When Apollo Eleven landed on the moon in 1969, millions watched live on TV but that evening many more had tuned in to “The Benny Hill Show”.
Today “The Benny Hill Show” is broadcast regularly in over a hundred countries around the world. In Britain he has effectively been “cancelled”.
“What’s Wrong With Benny Hill?” is a brand-new musical comedy that explores the life and legacy of a very peculiar and brilliant comedian. It tells the story of his life and shows why he was considered by many of his peers to be the best, an “Imperial Clown”.
Benny was Charlie Chaplin's favourite comedian. Anthony Burgess described him as “One of the great artists of our age.” He has millions of avid fans all over the world so why has he been airbrushed from British Comedy History? Why is there no statue or memorial in his home town of Southampton?
Mark Carey, in his latest play sets out to address these questions and provide an insight into a unique and deeply private man with a very public face, and tackles current issues such as cancel culture and freedom of speech.
“What’s Wrong With Benny Hill? features Mark Carey and Dani Carbery.
9 Feb 2024 Clent Parish Hall (Live & Local Worcestershire)
10 Feb 2024 Clipstone Social Club (Live & Local Nottinghamshire)
17 Feb 2024 The Market Theatre, Ledbury, Herefordshire
1 Mar 2024 South Hill Parks Arts Centre, Bracknel, Berks
22 Mar 2024 Heron Theatre, Milnthorpe, Lancs
4 May 2024 Fisher Theatre, Bungay, Suffolk
11 May 2024 Ashton under Hill Village Hall (Live & Local Worcestershire)
15 June 2024 Plough Arts Centre, Torrington, Devon
5 July 2024 The Albany Theatre, Coventry
Date TBC - The Ropewalk, Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincs
12 July 2023 Ilmington Village Hall, Warwickshire
13 July 2023 Ilmington Village Hall, Warwickshire
14 July 2023 Ilmington Village Hall, Warwickshire ***SOLD OUT***
15 July 2023 Ilmington Village Hall, Warwickshire
23 Sept 2023 Southwold Arts Centre, Southwold, Suffolk
28 Sept 2023 Southwell Library, Southwell, Notts
7 Oct 2023 Cygnet Theatre, Exeter
9 Oct 2023 Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Glos ***SOLD OUT***
10 Oct 2023 Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham,
24 Nov 2023 Brixham Theatre, Brixham, Devon
What's Wrong with Benny Hill?
A bit like John Peel playing The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ twice in succession on his radio show in 1978, I would gladly have watched a second consecutive performance of this Mark Carey play on Thursday night. And that really should be ‘nuff said.
However, name a British comic genius. Cooper, Cleese, Morecambe, Milligan, Sellars? Gervais, Connolly, Atkinson, Coogan, Kay? Victoria Wood? But Benny Hill has now become so synonymous with outdated sexually inappropriate humour and his frequent racially stereotyped characters that it is easiest to gloss over this giant of the comedy world. With 21 million viewers of The Benny Hill Show in 1971, it’s hard not to agree with one member of the audience on Thursday evening who said, “we all laughed at him”.
But should we now look back and realise that this was inappropriate? And shameful? Ben Elton pointedly commented, “We know in Britain women can’t even walk in parks anymore”, when criticising the programme in 1987. Within Carey’s show, which rightly deserves to tour to full houses, we learn all there is to learn about Alfred Hawthorne Hill. From his comic turns in the playground, the huge success of his television show, his frequent travels to France, his relationship with his father ‘The Captain’, his ill health and inability to manage his huge fortune, through to his lonely death at home in 1992 aged 68. Carey provides a genuine performance of a man who only ever wanted to make people laugh. There isn’t a hint of caricature, even when exhibiting Hill’s trademark smirks and eye rolls. This is honest, truthful acting at its best.
But this play is a two hander or rather a ‘one and a dozen-hander’ for Dani Carbery matches Carey by supplying a stream of individuals crucial to the telling of this tale; she plays his father, a French waiter, a seedy paparazzi, a solicitor, an American tourist (Hill had huge fame in America too), a showgirl, a Mary Whitehouse sort, and an alternative comedian who condemns Hill for his brand of so-called humour. She manages to give everyone their own personality through voice, movement and great facial expression.
But hold on, there are original songs aplenty throughout too (although I fancy ‘Ernie’ lost out to save on performance rights, or would it have been just too cliche to include?). The set is simple, a living room, but adaptable for all variety of locations.
At the end, my wife and I drove home continuing to discuss the merits of working class comedy performed by working class individuals. There is nothing inherently wrong with Benny Hill for wanting to make people laugh, and laugh they did.
The show runs until Saturday 15th at the delightful Ilmington Village Hall then touring thereafter. Do not miss out!
"Last evening we came to the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham to see Mark Carey in this production. As a second cousin of Alfred (Benny) Hill, I was very much impressed by the way he was shown on stage. Although I never met the real Benny, only having seen him on television and in films, last night I went home feeling that at last I had. I commend the research into Benny's past, digging into my own family history, and referring to many of my relations, particularly my Auntie Lucy (Lulu) who I did know. I am glad that I was able to meet Mark afterwards and talk about my cousin, who was a very private person."
"Brilliant! Provokes discussion and debate.....whatever your views on comedy. Star quality performances." Tony Homer, Stagewrite
"Ruddy marvellous! Brilliant performances! Thought provoking and challenging!"
Gill Sutherland, Stratford Herald
"Excellent show.....do go see!" Sunny Ormonde, (Lillian, The Archers)
"Better than a wet Wednesday at the Blackpool Grand!" Facebook feedback
"Wonderful evening!" Facebook feedback
"What a great show! Superb acting!" Paul Greenwood (actor)
"A great show. Funny, poignant. Reveals Benny to be a much more complex and interesting character than his TV persona suggests. Well worth seeing."
Nick le Mesurier, theatre critic, Leamington Courier
"Brilliant show" Facebook feedback
"Really enjoyed it - a real conversation inducer!" Facebook feedback
"A seriously impressive show." Chris Saul (RSC actor and producer)
"Excellent and thought provoking entertainment. Well worth seeing." Facebook feedback
"Cracking night. A magnificent and thought provoking show." Facebook feedback
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