Dear Billy: A Love Letter to the Big Yin from the People of Scotland – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Director: Joe Douglas

Composer: Simon Liddell & Jill O’Sullivan

Set and Costume Design: Claire Halleran

Lighting: Kate Bonney & Simon Hayes

Gary McNair’s Dear Billy is billed as “a love letter to the Big Yin from the people of Scotland.”

A number of “story gatherers” and “researchers” from the National Theatre of Scotland have travelled far and wide to collect stories about national treasure Billy Connolly to form the basis of McNair’s work. A work that includes stories both hilarious and deeply moving, it celebrates the Big Yin and his meaning to the Scottish public. After touring Scotland, its final stops are here in Connolly’s hometown, Glasgow.

There are few Scots without a tale to tell, a misremembered sketch to re-enact or an opinion to give on Connolly, all providing rich source material for Dear Billy.

The work is chronological and takes us from a disturbing childhood of “depravity, abandonment and beatings”, to working in the city’s shipyards in the 60s, through his days as a musician with the Humblebums, to global superstardom. There are tales of unsung philanthropy and utterly tear-jerking moments of personal connection with the comedy legend. It is played out on designer Claire Halleran’s neon-lit, music venue set. Musicians Simon Liddell and Jill O’Sullivan provide excellent musical accompaniment, taking Connolly’s folk roots as their inspiration. The tunes are complimentary, never intrusive, and greatly add to the energy of the piece.

This is an absolute shining light in a pretty depressing current theatre scene. An original work, inventively researched, structured and staged and perfectly pitched to its audience. McNair is a phenomenal writer and performer whose engaging personality is impossible not to warm too, a combination in this work that’s irresistible. The energy level is high, the pacing perfectly suited to the source material. It’s a concise 90 minutes that packs more punch than shows twice its length. The love shines through from start to finish. Dear Billy can’t come more highly recommended. Do yourself a favour and get a ticket while you can.

Runs until 25 June 2023 | Image: Sally Jubb

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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