Billy Liar

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Billy Liar is a play by Keith Waterhouse [1] (1929-2009) and Willis Hall [2] (1929-2005).

The original text

The play is a three-act stage adaptation of Waterhouse's 1959 novel Billy Liar [3].

It tells the story of the compulsive liar Billy Fisher, who has an uninspiring dead-end job as an undertaker's assistant and lives at home with his family in a sleepy Yorkshire town. His three fiancées fail to keep him adequately occupied and Billy leads a second life in his imagination. Billy's problems come when he is unable to separate fantasy from reality, and so embroils himself in a web of tangled lies, with painfully comic results. [4]

First performed on the West End in 1960, featuring Albert Finney as Billy. The text published in various versions by Michael Joseph, Samuel French and Norton in the same year

Translations and adaptations

Adapted as film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie, in 1963[5].

In 1974 it was adapted as a musical called Billy, a book by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, music by John Barry and lyrics by Don Black.[6] It opened at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, before moving on 1 May 1974 to the West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Billy was played by Michael Crawford.

Performance history in South Africa

1961: Performed at the Alexander Theatre starring Michael McGovern as Billy, opening in November.

1966: Staged by the University of Cape Town Drama Department in The Little Theatre, directed by Rosalie van der Gucht, with a cast including Peter Kruger as Billy and Joyce Burch as Florence.

1967: Presented by the Arts Theatre Club at the Guild Theatre, directed by Lea Denfield.

1968: Presented by The Sandowners, starring , among others, Brenda Wood.

1985: Presented by NAPAC at the Alhambra Theatre, Durban, directed by Erica Rogers, from 11 March 1985. The cast: Dai Bradley, John Hussey, Pat Sanders, Susie Gehr, David Butler, Mandy Wildman and Beverly Goodin.


The Amorous Prawn programme notes, 1961.

Little Theatre programme, 1966.

Theatre programme held by NELM: [Collection: KORT, Maurice]: 2012. 379. 6. 56. (NAPAC 1985).

Report by Raeford Daniel, The Rand Daily Mail, 10 January 1985.

Arts Theatre Club archive held by George Mountjoy.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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