BDS’s latest production of Billy Liar is a great night out. Director Adam Comer presents a super cast, who bring Waterhouse and Hall’s hit play and film from the 1960’s to life. It still has humour and appeal as a northern working-class classic of its time, even if perhaps a few references are a little dated, which could have easily been cut for contemporary audiences, without losing any flavour of the period.
Billy Fisher tells lies which get him into hot water. His wild imagination and storytelling mean his exasperated family don’t believe a word he says and the three young ladies in his life are all being led a merry dance.
In the title role, Danny Myers, making his DBS debut, shines as Billy. His natural exuberance and energy was there from the first moment. His cheekiness and charm wins us over and we forgive his bad behaviour. Why does he lie? Is it for attention or just for fun? Maybe we’ll never know. His poor mother, played by Marie Williams, is a strong character study; stoic, until after her mother’s passing, when the hurt and frustration she is carrying is credible. Her mother Florence, the grandmother, played by experienced Julie Little, gives a fine and totally believable character. Her constant talking to someone who isn’t there, sorting her handbag and then her passing out was excellently done. In Kevin Fishwick’s performance as Billy father, his despair and anger are convincing, having given up with his lazy, lying boy. A good dynamic between the parents developed as the play went along.
Billy is engaged to two ‘lasses’ at the same time: The prim and proper Barbara, played sensitively by Hannah Lewin and the loud and raucous Rita, played with gusto by Jenny Jones. Her funny, mouthy outburst certainly got the laughs. Finally, we meet Liz, the ex -girlfriend. She too loves him and wants to marry him. Fiona Williams is delightful as the free-spirited Liz – their scene together was charming. Mike Jones as Arthur Crabtree, the sensible friend – another solid performance and their opening scene together was really fun.
All in all, there are no weak links in this cast. Myers is certainly a new star for the group, and I am sure they will want to hold on to him.
Comer’s direction gave it movement and pace and used a clever trick to change the scene from interior to exterior. The family home was an authentic living room but maybe the placement of some of the furniture caused a few masking difficulties. Costumes gave a good feel of the period especially in the young girl’s outfits and the incidental music, a real sense of the 1960s.
The show runs until Saturday and is certainly worth seeing. Tickets are still available from the Gladstone theatre website. https://gladstonetheatre.org.uk/
BDS offer a really well acted, light comedy that is an enjoyable night out at the theatre.
Reviewer: Bev Clark
Reviewed: 15th November 2023
North West End UK Rating: