Written and directed by Des Dillon
Pros: A great script. Funny and poignant with strong themes, cleverly delivered in a very credible setting. The cast are fantastic and deliver wonderful comic timing.
Cons: Although pacey and energetic, it is a little drawn out. The early encounters lack the blind anger that could be present when staunch rivals meet in such circumstances. The context outside of Scotland may not relate to all audiences.
Our Verdict: Des Dillon is a very clever writer, and the cast bring this comedy to life with ease and credibility. The issues tackled are weighty, however the humour and tender moments make for entertaining and thought-provoking theatre.
This cleverly written play tackles the history and futility of sectarianism in Scotland, the passion and pointlessness of football team rivalry and the sensitivity and fragility of the human condition with lots of laughs and poignant moments too. I have to admit that I was ignorant of the gravitas of Celtic/Rangers divide in Scotland, but by the end of this production I was certainly enlightened. That’s not to say this is an instructive piece – far from it! This well-observed comedy is the story of two football fans, one Celtic and one Rangers, thrown together in the same cell on match day, and the warden who is keeping them. They challenge each other’s beliefs, explore each other’s backgrounds, fight, laugh and share some intimate personal moments. It’s a gritty subject, written in a very credible way – the characters, their language and the way they interact are utterly believable and this doesn’t detract from the underlying intelligence of their banter and the clear themes that carry through the play. This is wonderful writing on so many levels.
The cast are excellent and give a strong account of the characters they play. James McAnerney is Tim, the Celtic supporter. McAnerney is wonderful in this role and plays the character with energy, comfortable ease and so much personality it is hard to believe he is not actually Tim! David Alexander is Billy and provides a perfect ‘proddy’ Rangers foil to the Catholic Tim. Alexander gives real gusto to the role and the pair are brilliant at delivering fantastically timed banter. The only thing that could be strengthened is their reaction to each other when they first meet. This scene feels a little hammed up, and the tension and hatred that should be present just isn’t really achieved. That said the moment passes as the characters warm to each other and the laughs roll on as they realise they are not so far apart. I loved Wullie Brennan as Harry, the ‘turn key’ jailer, intensely consumed by his owned personal circumstances. Brennan brings tenacity and warmth to the role, which is a brilliant contrast to the two warring inmates. I cannot imagine a better cast; they work really well together.
I really enjoyed this performance, though it felt like it was a tad too long. It seemed to me that the banter and points made are a bit laboured and repetitive. Perhaps there are finer points that I missed; I was unaware of the extent of sectarianism in Scotland and I am not a football fan. It did take me a little while to warm up to it and I can see the potential for some audiences not connecting with it at all due to its specific context, though it will clearly appeal to a Scottish viewer! If you put that to one side, this play has everything that makes good theatre – strong characters delivered by a talented cast, relatable themes, lots of humour balanced with poignancy and human frailty and some really intelligent commentary on bigotries and social division which applies to so much of life. In fact, it’s true that much of what is being argued about – Celtic vs Rangers, Catholic vs Protestant, Irish vs Scottish – can be applied to any such situation, and this play gives it fresh perspective. For that reason I can recommend it.
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Singin’ I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim runs at The Cockpit until 27th April 2013 and then at various dates across Scotland in May and June.