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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Singin' I'm No a Billy He's a Tim, theatre review

Published in The Guardian.

Singin' I'm No a Billy He's a Tim

3 out of 5

Ever since Hector McMillan's The Sash in 1974, there has been a popular market in Scotland for broad comedies on a sectarian theme. And one look at the audience crowding into the Citizens tells you Des Dillon's Singin' I'm No a Billy He's a Tim is reaching the parts that other theatre can't reach. Produced by the unfunded NLP company, with an uninspiring, low-budget set, it has enjoyed a second sell-out tour of Scotland, with dates lined up in Northern Ireland later in the year. All this while passing under the theatre establishment radar.

You couldn't call it sophisticated, but the production is good fun. Dillon's key gag is to throw two football fans from either side of Glasgow's sectarian divide - Catholic Celtic, Protestant Rangers - into a police cell on the day of an Old Firm match. Tim and Billy (nobody said this was subtle) have to negotiate a path between their desire to see the game and their inbred hatred of each other. In the process, they realise the foolishness of their bigotry.

The trajectory is predictable; the skill lies in Dillon's careful balance between recognising, even celebrating the tribal affiliations of both sides and pointing out that the kind of songs that glory in being "up to our knees in Fenian blood" would be intolerable in any other cultural setting. His raucous sense of humour and keen understanding of the west-coast sectarian mindset make his sisters-under-the-skin message seem a matter of urgency and not just a liberal platitude.

In this, he is aided by the tremendous performances of Scott Kyle (Billy) and Colin Little (Tim), who have a perfect feel for the machismo of the terraces, the stakes involved in the peace process and the no-nonsense comedy of Dillon's script.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

1 comment:

Dot said...

Have seen this play at both small theatre and main stage at Citizens.
Well acted and was loved by the fans of both sides...great viewing and the actors are great.
Well done to nlp theatre compnay for bringing this to the theatres over Scotland