By Keith Waterhouse
26 February - 3 March, 2018
A teenager in a North Country town, Billy Fisher weaves a world of his own out of his daydreams. He is an incurable liar, idle and dishonest, and to escape from his dull job as an undertaker's clerk and his dreary domestic background he imagines himself in so many different situations that truth and fiction become hopelessly intermingled. His family is unable to understand or control him, though they realize that he is a good for nothing. The cast is completed by the three girls to whom he is simultaneously engaged. When he is given the chance to start a new life, he turns it down, preferring his dreams to reality.
Set in a lower middle-class house in a northern industrial town, it could be said that Billy Liar is a simple comedy about a young man who tells lies. Indeed, much of the comedy comes from us watching Billy’s antics and hearing the other characters’ responses to them. However, beneath the comedy runs the story of an imaginative youth fighting to get out of his complacent, cliché-ridden background. Billy is not a freak, nor is he a fool, but the flights of fancy, which exist in most people, are nearer to the surface in Billy than they are in most of us. The play is very much a period piece – it is set in its own time - and our staging and costumes attempt to reflect the 60s. This is not to say the issues it explores are old-fashioned. Indeed, many of us are aware of the difficulties of having an elderly relative “live in”, and many parents will have sympathy with Alice and Geoffrey as they try to control their young son and steer him towards what they believe to be “the best path”. Also, like Billy, some young people find difficulty “finding their feet” and reaching their potential, because they perceive they are confined by the environment they are born into – even though there are more opportunities today than there were in the 1960s. Nevertheless, the play retains an old fashioned “feel”, partly due to its language, and the characters’ values and their attitudes to work and sex, and all this before Tony Blackburn’s first broadcast on Radio 1! (PS that’s a note for the older boys and girls amongst the audience!) Thank you for coming tonight. Enjoy!