Bringing Billy Liar back to life

Then and now - Recreating a classic movie scene: Below are pictured Will Eley and Adam Makepeace of Ripon Amateur Operatic Society recreating a scene from the movie Billy Liar (top) in front of Bradford's striking war memorial.
Then and now - Recreating a classic movie scene: Below are pictured Will Eley and Adam Makepeace of Ripon Amateur Operatic Society recreating a scene from the movie Billy Liar (top) in front of Bradford's striking war memorial.

TWO young actors from Ripon Amateur Operatic Society about to star in Billy, the musical based on the classic British movie Billy Liar, recently embarked on a journey to the very heart of where its story was first brought to life.

Most musicals are set in exotic locations, New York, Chicago, Austria and even Vietnam, so it is a rare opportunity to find a musical set so close to home – in Bradford.

The novel Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse published in 1959 was so successful, it was adapted into a play, and soon after in 1963 made into a film starring Tom Courtenay in the title role.

Set in the fictional town of “Stradhoughton”, the film was shot mainly in Bradford and surrounding areas.

Almost 50 years on, many of the locations have changed dramatically, however some of them remain virtually untouched.

Billy and his friend Arthur are seen in the film engaging in buffoonery in front of a striking war memorial.

This famous scene was shot at a memorial still standing between the Alhambra Theatre and the National Media Museum in Bradford City Centre.

Will Eley (Billy) and Adam Makepeace (Arthur) from Ripon Amateur Operatic Society were thrilled to be able to recreate this scene and get a taste of their predecessors’ experience almost half a century ago.

On the way back to Harrogate, the boys stopped off at the house used in the film as Billy Liar’s residence.

With the owner’s permission they were able to capture images of Will next to the very front door Tom Courtenay slammed behind him when portraying Billy Liar leaving for his job in the funeral home. Interestingly the house is now for sale.

Surprisingly true to the play and the film, the show Billy is set in 1960s Yorkshire and follows the story of Billy Fisher, the over imaginative dreamer and liar with two too many girlfriends and a wardrobe full of stolen calendars.

The witty script is punctuated with a fantastic score by the late John Barry. Lively dance numbers and beautifully written songs illustrate and enhance the bitter sweet story of a boy who just can’t stop lying.

l Billy will be performed at Harrogate Theatre from 18th – 21st April including a Saturday matinee.

Tickets are now on sale at Harrogate Theatre Box Office – 01423 502116, www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk.