Sunday, 5 May 2013

Love, Billy at the Lyric Belfast Review

Love, Billy is part of the Lyric Theatre's Belfast season, Graham Reid bringing back Belfast’s most famous family for a fifth installment in the now legendary series of Billy plays.

"Love, Billy sees Billy Martin returning to Belfast after 25 years away. He left without warning or informing anyone and now all of the Martin family are awaiting Billy’s arrival to celebrate their father Norman’s 74th birthday. They haven’t seen Billy in all that time and still have no inkling of why he left. There are family grudges to be resolved and Billy’s story to be revealed, at the heart of which is a man struggling to adapt to a family and city he knew so well but hardly recognises any more."

There are some fine performances, especially from Joe McGann and George Shane who inhibit their characters with confidence.  It was great to hear mention of a relation of mine, Buck Alec and his toothless lion (also mentioned in Brassneck's latest production The Sweety Bottle).  I thought there were some really nice moments of wit, particularly from Ciarán Nolan as Ernie Greer, and from George Shane as Norman Martin, Billy's father.

But in the end, I have to be honest, I found this show difficult to enjoy.  While it did have some nice moments, overall the production is bland.  Some of the words seem unnatural in the characters' mouths, the script could be edited into an hour long show without losing anything and nothing of importance or interest happens.  While the set looked nice, it's angle made it very difficult to hear, as at times the actor's voices were not projected out into the auditorium (I was six rows from the front).  Cutting out the pointless set changes and paring down the repetitive script may have allowed the actors to build up a bit more energy.

At curtain call the actors were clearly expecting a standing ovation when the audience applauded politely instead.  It seems it was a night of disappointment for both them and me.

Love, Billy runs till 25th May at the Lyric Belfast.  Click here to book tickets. I'd love to know what your thoughts are.



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