By Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall
Royal Exchange Theatre, 17 June 2014
A splendid production of a seminal ‘60s play, Harry McEntire giving an accomplished, nuanced performance.
Another actor you couldn’t take your eyes off was Katie Moore; she played Rita, a fiery working-class girl who wasn’t about to be messed about by a philandering scalliwag like Billy. Not by a long chalk, matey.
Not all the humour that is present in the novel will be found in the play, while the film – well, film generally – has a larger, more diverse canvas. The play has plenty of humour still, mind, but what it specifically offers is a closer, more forensic look at the character of Billy. And he doesn’t make especially attractive viewing, at that. He’s a skiver and a thief, he uses women, he can’t follow through on his dreams when given the chance… It is impressive, actually, that Keith Waterhouse chose to create such a warts-and-all kind of character. Curious as well that we root for Billy, despite his shortcomings. Perhaps because he is vital and the most alive of all of them. Or because we realise that, for all of his shenanigans, he is simply trying to survive in a deadly dull environment.
Billy Liar is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 12 July 2014, further details can be found here.