A favorite of amateur productions, Billy Liar is a classic play that follows William Fisher, a young man who funnily enough likes to tell fibs. Balancing his mountain of lies with two fiancés and a third girl he actually likes, Billy yearns for an escape from the bleakness of 1950s Yorkshire and the iron thumb of his parents. The irony, of course, is that Billy’s escapist fantasy would take him directly to where we already are: London. Perhaps this is why a group of Kings College students has managed to breathe fresh life into a possibly tired choice of production.
It is not often that I am genuinely entertained by this kind of amateur theatre but with a superb cast and extremely professional lighting, direction and production, The Kings Players manage to create a worthy stage presence even when crammed into the awkward Tutu’s room. A large part of this was due to the excellent soundtrack that helped build a world outside of the plays small scale. The simple décor added to the 1950s setting whilst the lighting managed to draw focus to the different areas of the house; making them feel distinct despite the lack of space. The cast made good use of the different props with Billy especially taking advantage of every part of the set; lead actor Jack Shepherd was jumping up on the table whilst delivering a strong comedic performance that anchored the rebellious tone of the play. The rest of the cast filled their roles perfectly though no one, in particular, stole the spotlight. Following a superb first half, I did feel that the second lacked the same scale and impact. However, the players still managed to wrap it up on an emotional note thanks again to the excellent audio-visual choices.
Special Mention must go to director Josh Righton, who brought together the disparate elements to create a very controlled and professional production. Given a few words at the close of the play, he wisely chose to instead direct the cast and audience to the pub for a congratulatory pint; the perfect end to any student production.
The Kings Players make full use of their source material, using a tried and true play but dressing and performing it to the best of their ability to create a solid production that is stronger than the sum of its parts.