BILLY LIAR by Keith Waterhouse – A NODA Review by Dee Sharpe
Billy Liar is a novel by Keith Waterhouse, written in 1959. It was adapted into a play for the Cambridge Theatre in London in 1960 and was later turned into a film and TV series. Billy Fisher is young, lazy and dishonest. Daydreams help him escape the mundanity of life with his parents and grandmother as well as his dreary job as an undertaker’s assistant in the northern town of Stradhoughton. His dreams become lies which get out of control creating various scrapes in life and love, which then generate more lies. The play is semi comic, mixing gritty reality with humour – a difficult blend to get right, but the cast nailed it with expert direction from director Ann Atkins.
The superb production team produced a detailed set which pulled the audience back to the sixties with a cluttered room well furnished with chests, cabinets, a couch, table and wireless with clever touches such as the three flying ducks, display plates and a mirror on the wall and a crowded mantelpiece. Outdoors was depicted by the home front door opening out to a bench downstage left, with a garden gate on the opposite side.
With deft interplay between the characters, the cast succeeded in creating the intense, domestically claustrophobic atmosphere required. Mary Matson excellently portrayed the grumbling tone and body language of Billy’s grandmother Florence Boothroyd while Helen Fyles was perfect as mother Alice Fisher, wittering around trying to appease everyone. Nigel Atkinson’s performance as Billy’s father Geoffrey a mass of pent up frustration and rage towards his feckless yet loved son was outstanding.
Barbara, Rita and Liz (Alice Rogers, Karin Grierson and Lucy Walker) were faultless in their different roles as Billy’s girlfriends. Their exasperation with, yet devotion to Billy was a perfect portrayal of the confusion of young love. George Booker gave a winning performance as Billy’s friend Arthur Crabtree showing brilliant comic timing and expressions.
Now I come to Milo Gardiner who played Billy Fisher. It was only after the performance somebody revealed that he was a few years younger than I had taken him for. This of course is a great compliment to the maturity of his acting. He was utterly believable as lazy, dreamy, lying Billy who somehow managed to make himself likeable despite his flaws.
I must commend the society for their front of house team who generated a happy and expectant mood with their welcome. The programme was colourful with engaging artwork on the cover and important touches such as the ‘director’s note’, a list of recent and forthcoming productions and of course the NODA logo!
A great play by a hugely talented society
POSTSCRIPT from HTC Hot Topics 22nd January 2018
Another big ‘pat on the back’ for HTC!
" The play, Billy Liar, staged in October 2017 has won yet another award! You will remember that in December some members of the cast and production team went along to the Oscars style awards evening held by the Brighton and Hove Arts Council at the BHASVIC Hall in Hove.
As well as hearing of several nominations for awards, they were delighted to leave the event with a certificate for Best Costume Design, an award for Best Director (Ann Atkins) and, the icing on the cake, The Bea Waters Challenge Cup for Best Overall Production – all presented for Billy Liar.
But now we have had some more wonderful news; the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, NODA, has awarded HTC their “Accolade of Excellence” for Billy Liar. There will be a presentation of the award on Sunday 18 March 2018 at the Playhouse Theatre in Whitstable, North Kent. We are expecting to receive a formal invitation to the event in the next few days. Very well done and congratulations to all involved in Billy Liar" .