Middle Ground Theatre Company add to their long list of theatrical triumphs with this excellent revival of Billy Liar. Keith Waterhouse’s sharply observed social comedy was originally published as a novel in 1959. It quickly found success as both a play and a film starring Tom Courtney as the undertaker’s clerk who tries to daydream his way out of drudgery with fantasies about becoming a comedy scriptwriter
This production features a brilliant performance by Nathan Hannan as Billy whose constant lies and complicated love-life - two fiancees, one ring and the girl of his dreams waiting in the wings - threaten to bring reality crashing into his make believe world.
Director Michael Lunney’s adaptation manages to evoke the stifling boredom and suffocating parental expectations visited on the youth of a drab post-war northern town. It skilfully highlights daydream believer Billy’s private world in freeze-frame snippets of sound, music and lights.
Helen Fraser and Dicken Ashworth turn in powerful and moving performances as Billy’s worried, baffled and exasperated parents. While, among the girls, special mention must go to Lauren Drummond as the prim and chaste Barbara whose idea of a wild night in is to eat oranges and dream of distant motherhood.
Ironically it was Helen Fraser - best known these days as formidable prison officer Sylvia "Bodybag" Hollamby in ITV's Bad Girls - who was cast as Barbara in the 1963 film.
Currently playing the mother that her original character was always destined to turn into, she has surely come full circle. In a further unexpected twist of fate Fraser now finds herself considered a gay icon and is poised to be signed up for Bad Girls the Musical! Even Billy Liar couldn't have dreamt that one up?