Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Billy Liar show review. Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, Dicken Ashworth, Helen Fraser


Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
(in appearance order)
Florence Boothroyd - Sally Saunders
Alice Fisher - Helen Fraser
Geoffrey Fisher - Dicken Ashworth
Billy Fisher - Nathan Hannon
Arthur Crabtree Adam Henderson Scott
Barbara - Lauren Drummond
Rita - Victoria Hawkins
Liz - Holly Quin-Ankrah

Back in 1963 Billy Liar was a popular movie of its time with Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie starring.
For those who don't know the story it essentially revolves around serial liar, womaniser and lazy so-and-so, Billy Fisher. We watch as his family despairs at his ever growing list of lies about his love life, his work, in fact just about every word he utters to anybody is a complete fabrication. Actress Helen Fraser and former Emmerdale star Dicken Ashworth play Billy's parents.
There aren't many plays which, these days, are divided into 3 acts with 2 intervals. Likewise there are few plays which last 2 and a half hours, including those breaks.

But in this case its definitely one act too many. There are few shows where I've felt the urge to check my watch in the final act but in this case I think I ended up doing it three times! The whole thing just seemed to drag on and on and on. I know my wife and myself weren't alone in feeling this either as we've since got exactly the same reaction from others who saw this show without even telling them our verdict.

Dicken Ashworth stars in the Billy Liar tourBilly Liar is, as you would probably expect from the subject matter, a comedy. But whilst there are indeed many funny moments it wasn't enough to hold my attention throughout.

Others were clearly in agreement as the audience numbers reduced after the first interval and again after the second interval.

However, as I said, there are some funny moments in this drawn-out affair and star of the show has to be Lauren Drummond who plays Billy's most suffering girlfriend. As serial-orange-muncher Barbara not only does she have to deliver what is probably the funniest role of all but the poor girl has to devour 6 oranges (not Satsumas) each and every evening of this shows long tour. She did say that fortunately she likes oranges (probably a key factor in getting this role) but when you occasionally get a really sour one it is somewhat hard to deliver the lines without wincing.

There's nothing actually wrong with any of the acting in this play. It's the play itself which is the problem to me. Billy Liar just doesn't stand up against some of the more modern comedies and I think as the years go on audiences for this will dwindle further. Perhaps if it had been condensed into 2 acts I may have felt differently but this was one play that I was relieved when the curtain call finally came as I was getting rather bored.

To see Billy Liar again it would take a cast I desperately wanted to meet to get me sitting through the 3 acts and I'll remember to have some caffeine intake in the intervals.

In the meantime I reckon Billy Liar would work on stage in the 2000's but it needs a modernization and a total rewrite to make it funny in the 21st century. Now there's a scriptwriter's challenge.

1 out of 5 for Billie Liar 2009 tour
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