Wednesday, April 29, 2009


at the Cramphorn


We've had his Kenneth, his Frankie, and now his Noel.

David Benson sings the songs of the Master, from the familiar I'll See You Again to the sadly neglected No Good At Love, simply delivered, glass in hand, from a bar stool by the piano.

The Coward canon has been mined before, but rarely with such enthusiasm and variety – as he said, there's so much to choose from.

With the expertise and panache of Stewart Nicholls at the upright, Benson took us through the syncopated Twenties to the hooded delinquents of the Sixties, from the ever-topical Bad Times Just Around the Corner to the X-Factor Mrs Worthington.

Stewart, who's restored Sail Away in a new performing edition – from dusty shelf to stage – introduced, and took a solo in, a medley from the show, before sharing a cosy piano stool for one of my favourites, Bronxville Darby and Joan.

Discovery of the night for me was the remarkably prescient What's Going to Happen to the Children, from Noel's last show. I also loved Where Were the Songs We Sung, and the patriotic medley in the second half.

Like Coward, Benson is not a great singer, but knows how to put over a song. The Master, looking down from the great cabaret stage in the sky, might counsel more stiff upper lip, less eye-rolling camp, [whatever next - Graham Norton as Dear Ivor ?] but the feather boas, the “poofery” and the pearls were a key part of the Benson tribute, his own fans mixing with the Noel aficionados.

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