‘Thomas Benjamin Wild Esq – Live From Bedfringe’ (Bedfringe, 30 July)

“A perfect performance by an artist who is at the beginning of the beginning of a brilliant journey.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

The worst thing you can do in a review is talk about the rest of the audience. What matters, I always say to new members of the writing team, is your reaction. How did the show impact you? Avoid phrases like, “the audience seemed disengaged” or “the audience seemed to like it” they’re just not useful. Last night was the exception that proves this rule. We, the audience, were very excited about this performance.

Thomas Benjamin Wilde esquire in the county of Bedfordshire has been one of those artists who’ve helped make the past 18 months almost tolerable. His YouTube covers encompass every kind of gem from Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell to Jack Buchannon’s Everything Stops for Tea. His original compositions are smart, funny, occasionally smutty, and catchier than COVID at a Trump White House event. Last night had the celebratory feeling of a comeback tour, yet it was only the first gig of a relatively recent newcomer’s much-delayed first ever tour.

The audience know that TBW is good. So good that had Bertie Wooster played banjolele even at two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against as well as Thomas Benjamin Wilde esquire in the county of Bedfordshire then Jeeves might not have left him and Wodehouse would have lost a plot. Everyone in the room is a fan.

Last night was streamed live over YouTube (see above) and this is where I got that thrill that only comes from seeing someone you already greatly admire succeeding at something really chuffing hard. TBW was equally present for both the live audience and the folks at home. It was a beautifully balanced act, pulled off with the gracious humility of a true professional who has worked at their craft morning, noon, and night until it’s sharper than a cavalry saber slicing open a bottle of 2002 vintage bubbles.

It’s a funny thing that Burgess never much liked A Clockwork Orange. Graves wasn’t overly fond of I, Claudius. Graham fell in and out of love with The Wind in the Willows and we all know what Conan Doyle tried to do to Sherlock Holmes. So it follows that Thomas Benjamin Wilde esquire in the county of Bedfordshire has a complicated relationship with “That Song”, the one that made him a sensation.

BedFringe’s James Pharaoh claims credit for inspiring the little ears (no swearing) version and it’s a great twist on a much loved (by us at any rate) newly minted classic. This is the first show I’ve seen with Daughter 1.0 since EdFringe ‘19. She’s 6 now and a big TBW fan (although admittedly she prefers Tom Carradine). This was a brilliant family-friendly show to reawaken her excitement about live performance.

The unexpected move from the garden to the bar – the afternoon’s rain had tried very hard to stop play – amplified both the music and the energy of the crowd. It’s a long thin space with exposed rafters which were played to front and back. There was some Rodney Bewes style ad hocs when things went awry, but this forced improv only made things all the jollier. The flashing TV screen in the background wasn’t quite covered by the set, but other than that this was a perfect performance by an artist who is at the beginning of the beginning of a brilliant journey.

Reviewer: Dan Lentell

ALL our Town & Gown coverage? Click here!