Billy Liar at Corn Exchange, Wallingford

Making a point . . . Billy, played by Harry Forward, right, on the receiving end from dad Geoffrey, played by Keith Ralphs, and mum Alice, played by Dida Moore

Making a point . . . Billy, played by Harry Forward, right, on the receiving end from dad Geoffrey, played by Keith Ralphs, and mum Alice, played by Dida Moore

First published in Entertainment by

MEMBERS of the Sinodun Players have turned to a timeless comedy classic for their next production.

They will be performing the play, Billy Liar, at the Corn Exchange, Market Place, Wallingford, from Wednesday to Saturday, May 23 to 26, at 7.45pm.

Written by Keith Waterhouse (from his own novel of the same name) and Willis Hall, it tells the story of 19-year-old Billy Fisher, who lives with his working-class parents in the fictional town of Stradhoughton in Yorkshire.

Bored by his job as a lowly clerk in a firm of undertakers, Billy, played by Harry Forward in the Players’ production, spends his time indulging himself in Walter Mitty-style fantasies and dreams of life as a comedy writer in the city.

And, with Billy engaged to two different girls at the same time and in love with a third, his day dreaming is have conseqences. The three young women, Barbara, Rita and Liz, are played by Lauren Whitfield, Ella Shepard and Poppy Jackson.

Keith Ralphs and Dida Moore play Billy’s parents, Geoffrey and Alice, Sarah Stephenson takes the role of his grandmother Florence and Billy’s best friend and work colleague, Arthur, is portrayed by Tom Greedy.

Sinodun’s show is directed by Marilyn Johnstone.

Marilyn told the Herald: “In 2010 I directed Cold Comfort Farm, which I loved, and for 2012 I have chosen Billy Liar to direct because I loved the film when it first came out and was excited by the prospect of returning to the 1950s.”

The original novel was written in 1959 and adapted for the stage the following year. The first production opened in the West End with Albert Finney in the title role. Later, the story was told in a film version directed by John Schlesinger and starring Tom Courtenay, who had understudied Finney for the stage version, and Julie Christie.

The book was also used as the basis for a 1970s television sitcom starring Jeff Rawle. The 1970s also saw a musical version, Billy, starring Michael Crawford and Elaine Paige.

Tickets for the Players’ opening night are £8 and from Thursday to Saturday £10 and are available from the Corn Exchange box office on 01491 825000 or online at www.cornexchange.org.uk Director Marilyn said: “I have been interested in the theatre since my mother used to take me to Sinodun Players readings and rehearsals in the 1950s.

“I studied drama at college and eventually, after a career based mainly in junior schools, ended up teaching it to GCSE level, which I loved. Incidentally, I taught Poppy Jackson, who is playing Liz for me in Billy Liar.

“In the 1980s I directed Embryo Youth Theatre and we staged successful musicals both at the Corn Exchange and Pangbourne Nautical College. In the 1990s, I led the Young Sinodun Players for ten years whilst also directing shows at Cranford House School. When I retired from teaching in 2008, I set up Musical Theatre Company and we have so far staged three enjoyable shows.

“For the Sinodun Players I have acted a variety of parts and have written and directed many pantomimes.”

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