On Stage: Stop Messing About – The Kenneth Williams Extravaganza

Stop Messing About is the oft quoted catchphrase associated with the late, great comedy actor and raconteur Kenneth Williams but was also the title of a largely forgotten radio series featuring the star of several films in the Carry On series.

Williams found himself fronting his own radio series after his Round the Horne co-star, Kenneth Horne, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1969. The material that would have formed the fifth series of that show was hastily reworked as Stop Messing About by scriptwriters Brian Cooke and Johnny Mortimer. It is this series that forms the basis of this new stage production Stop Messing About – The Kenneth Williams Extravaganza, set to the backdrop of a  faithfully recreated BBC studio, along with a talented cast delivering a script to a live audience as if a radio recording is in progress.

Robin Sebastian faithfully brings the persona of Kenneth Williams to life delivering responses and lines in the scripts that would delight any fan of the late star. India Fisher is the perfect compliment to Sebastian as Joan Sims, displaying a wide variety of characters and voices as Sims herself would have done.  The pair are joined by Nigel Harrison as Hugh Paddick and Charles Armstrong as the announcer resulting in a replication of the chemistry displayed by the original team as the show progresses.

Sadly, it has to be remembered that Stop Messing About wasn’t the finest moment of Williams’ radio career and despite the exceptional performances some of the material is either too bawdy or dated in places. However, sketches such as Williams’ War Memoirs, Joan Sims Driving Test and The Radio Addict are still funny enough to make this production worth a watch.

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus during March 2010

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