Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Keith Waterhouse’

Having seen this show at long last, I’m flabbergasted this is the first London production since the original almost 40 years ago. The pedigree is extraordinary. Based on Keith Waterhouse & Willis Hall’s Billy Liar, book by Dick Clement & Ian la Frenais, music by John Barry & lyrics by Don Black! It ran for two years at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and it’s the show that gave Michael Crawford his big break. …. and it’s a lovely little show.

Billy is a fantasist and a compulsive liar. He works for an undertaker but spends most of his time in his imagined worlds, which include a country of which he is president and a meeting with Marilyn Monroe. He lives with his somewhat intolerant dad, overly tolerant mum and dippy gran. He’s dating three girls at the same time and claims to have an offer of a job in London as a scriptwriter.

Michael Strassen has given us a handful of excellent productions here at the Union Theatre in the last four years or so and his trademark minimalist style again relies on just a few props with good costumes & lighting. It works well, with choreography that is particularly fresh and chirpy. Keith Ramsey is great as Billy, combining a charming cheeky chappie with an other worldly fantasist and an unfulfilled lost soul. Amongst a very impressive supporting cast, Adam Colbeck-Dunn caught my eye as friend / colleague Arthur.

A long-awaited opportunity to catch up with a truly British musical. Though I can see how a bigger stage would bring benefits (though not as large as Drury Lane!) this chamber version is very welcome indeed.

Read Full Post »

It’s over twenty years since I saw the original production of this play. It had a very original structure – a biographical monologue interrupted by ‘illustrations’ by characters described in the monologue (some time later, Improbable Theatre did the same with real people in Lifegame) – and a performance from Peter O’Toole which added a frisson because you couldn’t decide if he was playing drunk or actually was drunk!

Jeffrey Bernard was a journalist, gambler, raconteur and professional drunk. He was notorious to those that came across him, but after the play was staged became what we would call today a ‘celebrity’. In the play he tells his own story whilst locked into Soho’s Coach & Horses overnight by mistake. He drinks as he does and some of those he mentions and some of the stories he tells are illustrated by a host of characters, played by four actors, who come on stage briefly to introduce the character or play out the story.

It was fascinating to return to it after 20 years with a different actor, Robert Powell,  playing Bernard. It’s slightly less shocking, but still very funny and the structure remains clever, fresh and perfect for the story it tells. Powell is clearly enjoying playing this role and does so very well, with almost continual eye contact with the audience and a knowing smile that make it feel like you’re in the pub with him. That’s helped, of course, by a realistic pub set from Jonathan Fensom and in our case by front stalls seats, again within wig spotting distance! Director David Grindley’s staging serves Keith Waterhouse’s play well and is pretty faithful to Ned Sherrin’s original production – no point in messing with something that worked.

I don’t know if this Bath originated touring production is intended for the West End but I think the timing is good and it could well succeed again; my two companions were new to it and enjoyed it as much as I did.

Read Full Post »