Review: Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams

Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth WilliamsBorn Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams by Christopher Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having previously read the (edited) diaries, it was fascinating to see filled in the facts that the diaries left assumed (e.g. what it was that Fenella Fielding did that so offended Williams). But the most fascinating aspect of the book has to be the insight it gives into Williams’ psychology. So we see the portrait of an amazingly gifted actor who was subject to bouts of often totally irrational behaviour that did damage to him (eventually destroying his stage career) and others (at one point he managed to turn a massive hit play into a flop by sheer force of will and extreme obnoxiousness to his fellow-actors).

The author, I think wisely, makes little effort to theorise about why this behaviour occurred, seing his job as being more to present facts without trying to create a theory, or even worse a caricature (as happened in the dreadful ‘Fantabulosa’). I have my own view, coloured by my fondness for Jungian psychology, but I think that the strength of the book lies in the fact that it tells you enough to let you make your own judgement, and, instead of just rehashing the diaries, goes behind them and gives us more.

So, highly recommended.

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