Monday, 1 September 2008

Billy Elliot 2nd Hand Theatre Review

So the chosen birthday treat for nephew number three (N#3) was to go and see Billy Elliot in the West End of London. After much discussion with my mum, it was me that came up with the idea of Billy Elliot and she loved it! Mum had seen the film and thought N#3 (being quite musical and a secret dancer-in-front-of-the-mirror-when-nobody’s-looking type!) would be blown away by a boy of his age achieving so much. To be honest, I haven’t seen the film so I didn’t really know if it’d be his cup of tea or not!

Anyway, l booked it for Mum several months ago, in time to show N#3 the tickets on his actual birthday in June. Their seats were the best money could buy (unfortunately couldn’t find any suitable specials for a matinee performance on the right date so two seats costs a cool £120), ten rows from the front of the stage, right in the centre if the auditorium. When N#3 was told what his birthday present was, he was excited at the thought of seeing his first ever West End musical. (Actually, I think this was his first visit to the theatre full stop).

A few weeks ago I mentioned to one of my friends about Billy Elliot and she said she’d taken her 11 year old daughter there earlier in the year. When I asked what it was like she said it was great and her kids really enjoyed it. Then I told her how I’d planned to get N#3 the DVD so he’d know the story before he saw the show but my sister wouldn’t let him have it once she knew it was rated 15 (how short her memory is and what a spoil sport she has become!!!). My friend then dropped a bit of a bombshell: “Your sister knows there’s loads of swearing and violence in the show doesn’t she?” Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!!!

I may have mentioned that N#3 is somewhat straight-laced and intense for an 11 year old. He has an incredible sense of right and wrong (he thinks I’m very rude!) and is very age aware. The thought of him sitting in the Victoria Palace Theatre with my mum while men punched the living day lights out of each other and used swear words to enhance the atmosphere was almost unbearable!
On the other hand, I do feel he has been somewhat sheltered from the realities of life and witnessing these things as a performance might not be such a bad thing!
I couldn’t help thinking that the child-friendly “Hairspray” might have been a better choice under the circumstances though!
When I reported back to my mum about the swearing and the violence she was unfazed – when you’ve spent £120 on tickets it’s probably best to look on the bright side of everything!

So last weekend, the clan from Dorset arrived with one very excited 11 year old. I did ask him if he would write a review of the show for me but he refused. I told him I’d put it on the internet if he wrote it for me but he stubbornly refused. I said I’d put a photo of him with the review and credit him for his words and he gave me a lecture about the necessity to withhold children’s identities on the internet and told me I should know better! Oh dear! It would have been good to give you a review of Billy Elliot from a child’s perspective but this particular child was not playing ball!

On the way up to London my mum briefly explained to N#3 about the Miners strike of the 1980’s and also what a union was and why people belonged to them. These explanations were at the suggestion of my friend who said it was the only thing which her kids didn’t really get and needed to have it explained afterwards.

According to my mum it was “A very good show”… I’m not sure that’s quite enough to encourage you to buy tickets so I had to do a little cross-questioning!
Me: Was it very violent?
Mum: It was quite violent but not unnecessary and not gratuitous.
Me: Was there a lot of swearing and did it bother N#3?
Mum: Yes, but after a quick look in my direction after the first swear word, he didn’t seem too bothered. It was in keeping with the grittiness of the story and era.
Me: What were the cast like?
Mum: Fantastic! So talented and energetic.
Me: How does it compare to the film?
Mum: It’s the same story but totally different because of all the songs. You can’t really compare them.
Me: Would you go to see it again or recommend it to others?
Mum: Yes definitely!

According to N#3 (who was not prepared to write any sort of review or be interviewed!) Billy Elliot was “really good”. He was particularly happy to have got several cast autographs at the stage door after the show.
My sister has since reported back that when she asked him about it a few days later N#3 said

“It made me want to dance all the way down the road”.

I don’t think you can get a much better recommendation than that!


Friar said...

Well as a Billy nut I can identify with N#3's comment. It is the best thing on stage an, soon to be, three continents. Come and join us at the BETM forum where you can read many excelent reviews and learn all about the boys and the show. Which Billy, Michael, Debbie combo did they see?

Sparkly Songbird said...

Hello Friar and please pass on a big hi and thanks to everyone at the BETM forum who read my 2nd hand review and wrote positive comments on the forum!

My Mum and N#3 (nephew number 3 - unrelated to R2D2!) saw Josh Fedrick playing Billy but I'm not sure about the other cast members.

Josh's grandmother and cousin were also at the same matinee performance and he came running out of the stage door and gave his grandma a massive cuddle. He still found time to sign N#3's program which really topped off the day for him!

Best sparkly wishes to everyone at the BETM forum!

SS x