The Garrick’s latest production brims with comedy and pathos as a teenage boy ensnares himself in his own web of lies.
Billy Liar paints a day in the life of the Fisher family as parents Alice and Geoffrey grow all the more frustrated with the tall tales and idle ways of their son Billy, who finds himself romantically involved with three girls at once.
The play, written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, is set in a Northern, working-class town in the 1960s; no doubt it will take many audience members back to their own childhood homes.
Jonathan Pye gave a fun and vibrant performance in the leading role of Billy Fisher.
The actor wonderfully captured the youth, humour and playfulness of the teenager, transforming a work-shy, pathological liar into an endearing character.
David Kendrick was a natural on stage, fluently speaking the Northern, working-class language of Billy’s father, Geoffrey.
In fact, it is part of the play’s charm that the characters speak in lingo familiar to Burnley and Pendle audiences.
David was entirely convincing and compelling, bringing to life a character I could easily imagine on most street corners of East Lancashire.
Just as natural on stage was Gary Leonard. Had I not been told, I never would have thought he’d stepped in to take on the part of Billy’s friend Arthur Crabtree just three weeks before opening night.
Gary’s performance was slick and confident, as though he’d been rehearsing for months.
Anne Chadwick was terrific as Billy’s mother Alice, mixing frailty with strength, and pathos with warmth and rage, to create a believable loving mother at the end of her rope.
Marilyn Crowther made her return to The ACE Centre stage after three years to play Florence Boothroyd, Billy’s grandmother, brilliantly executing the comedy and vulnerability that the role demands.
Infectious fun, energy and enthusiasm were brought by Rachel Bailey to the small part of Liz, a down-to-earth nomad and one of the three girlfriends. It’s clear Rachel finds a second home on the stage.
Katy Taylor was believable as the mild and meek Barbara, Billy’s fiancé, drawing out the comic aspects of her role.
And Jenny Hardacre was strong and confident as his second fiancé, the loud and brash Rita.
The tale took place against a simple but lovely set, accurately transporting audiences to a typical working-class family home of the time.
And it’s clear director Alan Hargreaves, who starred as Billy 52 years ago, knows this play inside out.
Alan and his production team have not only pulled together a strong cast but have produced a polished, funny and moving show filled with sympathetic characters who I could easily picture walking around my home town.
Adapted from a 60-year-old novel and brought to a stage here in Nelson, this charming tale of a teenager bored of his small-town life is as fresh and relevant as ever.
Performances run tonight to Saturday at 7-30pm nightly.
Tickets: £12 (standard); £11 (senior citizens); and £8 (juniors); 01282 661234 or www.acecentre.co.uk