Lunch with... David Cameron*

Written by Anoosh Chakelian on 22 May 2013 in Culture
*Top lookalike Bentley Browning shares with Anoosh Chakelian the fears and fortunes of being one of the PM’s most successful doubles. Photo by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Lookalike, actor, comic and TV presenter, Browning is one of Cameron’s most successful lookalikes, earning up to £500 in a day to mimic the PM. His talents extend beyond that, though – he often gets work as Nick Clegg’s lookalike, too…

The restaurant

Nipa Thai

This spacious Thai restaurant is on the second floor of London’s grand Lancaster London hotel, with a vibrant view of Hyde Park’s Italian Gardens. What it lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in flavour in its brand-new Khantok lunch menu.

The menu

Traditional Khantok box Chicken Thai green curry, minced prawn on crisp bread with cucumber relish, stir-fried mixed vegetables, steamed rice.

Vegetarian Khantok box Asian vegetable red curry, vegetable-filled spring rolls with plum sauce, stir-fried mixed vegetables, steamed rice.

We drank

A glass each of Merlot Veneto.     

We discussed

Realisation A woman I was living with once looked at the back of my head and said, “You look like David Cameron”. I then sent a picture to an agency, and they took me. That was about three or four years ago.

One-man coalition I’ve done Clegg nearly as much as I’ve done Cameron. What does that tell you about politicians these days? All identikit, all look and sound like each other, all went to the same schools. Says it all. I’m a one-man coalition, which is very disconcerting.

Dangerous occupation People shout at me – I’ve had, “Get us out of Europe”, “Don’t let any more immigrants in”, “What you gonna do about hoodies?” I live on a council estate myself and I daren’t put this [costume] on walking through there, I’d get mugged. Sometimes I feel vulnerable, a bit of a hate character, as Cameron – I can assess his popularity by being him for the day. During the election and the Olympics, it was “Oh great, chummy Dave”, but since then, it’s gone down.

Token gesture He learned the hand gestures at the Tony Blair School of Mime. There are the thumbs clasped, then forthright, earnest karate chops, gestures from the chest outwards, and the pressing down – making bread. The really difficult one is when he gets very serious; he tenses the top lip, and it can distort my speech when I’m trying to do his posh voice. The TV industry thinks that no one can get his voice right. It’s a bland, Etonian voice structured to be right down the middle, any strange inflections or characteristics ironed out.

Back to reality One of my stand-up comedy lines is, “Hi, my name’s Bentley, or, as some people say, the Transvestite David Cameron”, because I’ve got very long hair. My miracle hairdresser hides it all. Normally I look like a rock ‘n’ roller; I play in a band called Explode the TV.

Behind the façade Dressing up as someone takes you into the inner character. It makes me fully aware that he’s a human being. I’d love to meet him, but he’s stockier than me and I bet he could give me a good bunch of fives to the chin.

Power trip Once the costume’s on, it releases the ‘inner bastard’. I change; I want to push people out of the way. And I think, ‘Is this the spirit of Cameron?’ I don’t feel myself – I’m a gentle, leftish kind of person, a liberal, but in the costume, it’s ‘outta my way’.

Reluctant Tory I’m from Sheffield, so it’s not in my blood to vote Tory. I’d probably vote Green. I’m caught between saying what I want to and playing the part, but if it weren’t for Cameron I wouldn’t have this job. It’s a quirk of fate and I’ve turned it to my advantage. So, good on him, long may he reign.

Perfect for

Perched directly above Lancaster Gate tube, this is the ideal location for any hungry members of the Notting Hill set close by.

Not suitable for

Anyone who prefers a more characterful lunch venue – there’s an impersonal, hotel-dining feel about it.

The cost £9.95 per person.

Bentley Browning runs the Stand Up Comedy Novices and Public Speaking courses and workshops and is author of How To Find a Husband. Contact him on 07980 286 258;;

To book a Nipa Thai Khantok lunch, email Available Tues–Fri from 12–2pm

Tags: Anoosh Chakelian, Bentley Browning, David Cameron, Issue 59, Lookalike, Lookey-likey, Lunch with, Mimic, Prime Minister

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