Saturday, June 13, 2009

Billy Elliot

The final treat of the maytrees' birthday season was an outing to the Victoria Palace Theatre to see the much acclaimed Billy Elliot musical.

The positives first: Drinking tea outside the Pret a Manger opposite the theatre during the hectic Friday evening rush hour period whilst watching the crowds head for Victoria Railway Station, rather than being part of the crowd, was remarkably enjoyable. The Theatre is an attractive Victorian musical hall design. The child stars and dancers in the musical itself were very talented and not at all shy of acting/dancing/singing in public. Also 99.9% of the packed theatre including mrs maytrees, obviously loved the whole show. Unfortunately I was one of the 0.01% who did not.

The story of making success from deprivation and under privilege, is as old as mankind but the Billy Elliot story was, to me, told with cliche and soppy sentiment as its main style. The 1970s miners' strike backdrop was portayed as the oppressed sticking together and fighting Mrs Thatcher mainly via the police yet the reality at the time was that coal mining was a dying industry. Arthur Scargill and cohorts
were expensively burying their collective heads in the sands. But that is a detail as the musical was not really intended to be correct politically or historically accurate for that matter.

The problem for me is that however talented children are, I don't enjoy spending 3 hours watching them any more than mrs maytrees would want to spend under half that time watching Mr Ronaldo, who at £80m is possibly the most talented football player on the planet at this time, display his undoubted skills on the football pitch.

I was also uneasy about a number of aspects in respect of the young children, all of whom were real stars. The language the minors had to use on-stage for one. In the 1970s doubtless adult miners would have used typical expletive and worse type expressions in their every day conversations but would they have been so relaxed about their own tiny children emulating them? Also men dressing up in women's clothes I find a 'drag' or worse but scenes of boys dressing up as girls seemed to me to be quite unattractive as was the scene towards the end when the whole cast wore frocks (tutus?).

May be my sense of humour is out of key with the mainstream or perhaps I need to be more laid back generally but I left the theatre with a sigh of relief at the finish.


  1. Very interesting, Jerry.
    I saw the film when it came out several years ago and quite enjoyed it, without going completely overboard.
    I didn't experience the Thatcher years at first hand so it's difficult for me to pass judgement on that aspect of things, and as you say, that is not really the point. On the other hand, the film sounds very different from the stage production you are writing about. For one thing it was much shorter! And of course it was only incidentally a song and dance number.
    I share your misgivings about productions built almost exclusively around children: there's only so much I can take! I can't help wondering, too, what effect this exposure to the limelight at such an early age has on their later development. But perhaps that's just me.
    Still, you certainly seem to have had a jolly birthday season!

  2. Greetings Barnaby

    Yes I saw the film too and enjoyed that more
    than the stage production.


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