Billy Liar – A must see musical
On Tuesday evening (April 3 2012), I drove over to Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion to photograph the final dress rehearsal of ‘Billy Liar‘, performed by the players of Bridgend Senior Youth Theatre Group.
This is one of the perks I occasionally get for shooting for the ‘Glamorgan Gem’, and I was in for one great evening of entertainment.
Some of the older readers of this blog may remember the television series and film of the same name.
The story revolves around the riotous daydreams of the main character Billy Fisher, who’s humdrum life is too much for him to bear, his only escape is a fantasy life he concocts to relieve his boredom, and the tedium of his job as a clerk in a local undertakers.
Billy is brow beaten by his parents, bullied by his boss Mr Shadrack and constantly having to duck and dive from his ‘two fiancée’. He survives only by feeding everyone a snowballing pack of lies, while trying to realise his own personal goals of becoming a television comedy script writer, and moving to London to make his fame and fortune.
Billy is a fantastic comedy character, and as the plot becomes more and more convoluted, the chaos rains thick and fast, with Billy having to tell even more amazing whoppers just to stay ahead of his game.
It’s a brilliant story that epitomises British comedy writing of the late 50’s and 60’s.
This production sticks very close to Keith Waterhouse’s original book (Billy Liar 1959), and the simple but effective stage set pulls all the main elements of Billy’s life into a compact and original visual theme. The stage is set out in a square which projects towards the audience, and a very talented orchestra is set at centre stage. The musicians totally enthralled me as they smoothly transited between each act of the musical – Magical stuff.
The musicals director Mr Roger Burnell should be very proud of this work, the young cast of actors, lighting and sound technicians have done a superb job of bring this story to life, and I’m positive we will be seeing a lot more of some of the members of the cast as their acting careers mature. After all it was a production of Billy Liar which catapulted Michael Balls stage career, so who knows what the future will bring for this productions cast.
It’s a musical you’ve just got to go and see. You’ll be glad you did.
Photographing stage productions brings with it many problems, that may not seem that obvious from the outset. Low light conditions, special lighting effects, and trying to find an optimum angle and height to capture the action can be a photographers nightmare.
Trying to work around all these hurdles, whilst trying to be as discreet as possible, so as not to distract the actors, is not a job for the faint hearted or technically inept photographer.
For this shoot I circumnavigated some of the problems I encountered by using two cameras simultaneously. I set up one camera centre stage from a vantage point high up on the balcony and focused it at a point on the main stage.
This camera would capture the action of the whole stage area, and was fired remotely by a high-powered radio transmitter, which was fitted to a hand-held camera.
Every time I tripped the shutter on camera No.2 the balcony camera fired as well to capture a wide-angle shot.
Due to the low light in the theatre and obviously not being allowed to use flash, all the photographs were taken at ISO 6400, to enable me to get a high enough shutter speed to freeze the actors movement.
This is about as far as I’ll dare stretch the low light capabilities of the Canon 5D Mk2, and although you may notice some grain/noise in the images, after filtering and softening the background information, I think the final results are more than satisfactory.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, and I really hope you go and see this musical.
It plays throughout April and tickets can be purchased through the booking office at The Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl.
The photographs included in the gallery of this post will be published next Thursday in the ‘Glamorgan Gem’ and prints can be ordered from me by visiting the album in the ‘Client Area’ on my website.