Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Singin' I'm No a Billy He's a Tim" - September 2008

Although we saw this at Cumbernauld Theatre on Thursday night it's taken me a little time to crystalise my thoughts on NLP Theatre's production of Des Dillon's play. Taking a look at the sectarian divide in the West of Scotland is a risky venture and I'm finding it difficult to separate out the success of the play in entertaining from its success at looking at the issue.

In terms of pure entertainment it certainly doesn't disappoint; delivering sharply targeted laughs at the expense of both lead characters and their respective 'traditions'. Featuring strong performances from Colin Little as Celtic Fan Tim and Scott Kyle's Rangers supporting Billy who find themselves sharing a police cell on the day of an Old Firm game while they wait for their wives to raise the money to pay their fines. James Miller is equally strong as their jailer whose own problems remind them that some things are more important than football or bigotry.

The script does a sterling job of highlighting the absurdities on both sides in an even handed manner but its success in generating laughs left me concerned that large elements of the audience were laughing with rather than at the characters. And with the wrong kind of audience I'd be a little concerned things may turn unpleasant. There is certainly a danger involved in what is essentially poking a wasps' nest with a stick.

While the message is clear that individuals can put aside their prejudices (even just for a while) it never quite gets across how damaging it can be, and the overwhelming sense of enjoyment that the piece provides adds to the sense that it's maybe all just a bit of banter. And with a feelgood ending, the play lacks the gut-punch that could have highlighted the consequences of unrestrained bigotry.

There isn't enough here to change peoples views - particularly those whose views most need changed - but it certainly holds up a mirror to the darker side of "Scottish" culture and for that it deserves to be applauded. It should also be applauded for bringing audiences into the theatre who wouldn't normally attend - and I'm sure many of them will have been sufficiently entertained that they will return. A final nice touch was the informal post-show Q&A with the cast and director which made for an enjoyable end to a very entertaining evening.

The show completed its 2008 tour in Glasgow and Irvine. and is underaking an extensive tour throughout Scotland in April/May 2009
Image used with permission

1 Heckle

Anonymous said...

Hi, I work on this show, one thing we have noticed is that it is taken very well in schools, and surprizingly the majority of the audiences are female. There is a mixed reaction from schools esspecialy in areas with a higher imigrant populus. (Just a wee bit of blurb) the tour will be comming back again at citz main stage and lycium main stage in april and may ( for info)