Review from YourHarlow:
FOR many, perhaps of a certain age, Billy Liar has become part of a psyche. The young man, who can only escape the humdrum of life by, to put it simply, lying. He does get the chance to escape but in the end, he bottles it.
This play needs strong actors and boy was this production, well cast. This was a rare occasion that this reviewer was in the front row and you felt the strength and depth in each performance.
Steve Hannam is always a rock of a performer and this gave him a perfect platform. His disdain for his son was clear throughout. He has killer lines that the audience loved but Steve’s performance really went through the gears. He was perfectly cast with Vanessa Wood, who simply never puts in a weak performance. Her portrayal of Alice was a caring, sympathetic mother who is trying to see everybody’s side. Both of them produced believable, string characterisations that contrasted with Billy’s fanciful world.
Which leads us to Billy played by Jake Hannam. The part of Billy Fisher is harder than you think, That is to say, it can be misjudged by actors who over-act or let Billy become the fantasy figure rather Ethan his imagination. Jake’s portrays is realistic, serious and very believable, He is that mate at school that you like but you get the feeling, everyone is going to leave behind in the end.
The highlight of Jake’s performance and perhaps the highlight of the evening is Billy replying his father about being “grateful”. It was an outstanding piece of acting.
Sarah Wiggins was a delight as a grandmother not liking the cut of 1950’s Britain. Her monologues in the first part of the play were a delight and she acted as a perfect foil for the other performers.
This reviewer wants to describe each performance as solid but hope it doesn’t seem like damning with faint praise. William Tennison was a quintessential Northern best mate but he had a side as well and William was excellent as he confronted his friend later on in the play.
The three girlfriends are vastly differing characters but that makes playing them all the more demanding. Each actress carves out their characters perfectly. Emily Power’s mousey Barbara is again a well disciplined performance that is simply a local girl who just wants to settle down. Emily plays the part subtly but it is all the better for that.
Katie Fisher is an absolute riot as Rita. This part needs a big performance and Katie does not disappoint.
Finally, Rebecca Lawson-Turner plays the “Julie Christie” role of Liz. The one person who may understand Billy or alternatively, the person he wants to be but instead finds himself a prisoner of the mind. This role seemed a little truncated. Rebecca is no doubt a talented actress and did really well with what she had but it would have been great to see more.
This was a really well directed play that didn’t waste a word of dialogue and was played so well by all the actors. The audience clearly really enjoyed an entertaining play but a thought-provoking one as well.
Florence Boothroyd - Sarah Wiggins
Alice Fisher - Vanessa Wood
Geoffrey Fisher - Steve Hannam
Billy Fisher - Jake Hannam
Barbra - Emily Power
Rita - Katie Fisher
Liz - Rebecca Lawson-Turner
Director - Alan Jones
Lighting and Sound Design - Tom Richards
Costume Design - Jocelyn Johnson
Stage Manager - Sam Stevens
Set Design and Realisation - Paul Johnson, Brett Stevens,
Stephen Dove, Izzy Lacey, Melissa Guest
Props - Barry Bowen
ASMs - Mel Guest, Eve Dunkin
Lighting Operator - Claire Klyn
Sound Operator - Tom Richards
Publicity Design - Paul Johnson
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank our sponsors for their support throughout 2019.