In the mid eighties, during Margaret Thatchers reign as prime minister, miners strikes caused poverty stricken towns into turmoil. Billy’s dad struggles as best he can, sending Billy to boxing lessons every week and providing for the family as best he can since the death of his wife. Billy’s life changes when he stumbles across Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet class one day after his boxing lesson. Seeing the potential in him she takes him under her wing and gets him to a level where he can audition for ballet school. But Billy’s dad isn’t keen on his son doing ballet, and even if he was, he couldn’t afford the fees. So will Billy be banished to a life of misery or find a way to fulfil his dream?
Ruthie Henshall does a great job as dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson. Deka Walmsley creates a great balance of emotions between hard faced struggling miner and father who has to single handedly raise his son. Ann Emery brings comedy and sweetness as the crazy old grandmother, hiding her Cornish pasties around the house. Elliot Hanna is the youngest boy to play the role of Billy, starting in the show at just ten years old and has a face that could melt hearts.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the live filming of a performance of Billy Elliot back in September 2014 which has just been released on DVD. Having seen the show a couple of times before, I was excited to see the magic being captured on film. The last time I had seen Billy Elliot I must admit it felt old and tired. Parts of the set were falling apart and the energy on stage was flat. This has all changed and I was moved to tears by the emotions created on stage. If you haven’t see Billy Elliot live on stage then you should check it out. But if you can’t wait for a trip to London, why not check out this amazing performances on DVD or buy someone a copy this Christmas!
At the end of this special performance, all 27 boys who have played the role of Billy over the years took to the stage for a special choreographed dance routine which was really a treat for the eyes!
Billy Elliot does what Made In Dagenham hasn’t quite managed to do. It takes an important historical time period and tells the story with the right amounts of comedy, seriousness, entertainment and facts. There is a fine line between telling this type of story correctly and unfortunately the new West End show Made In Dagenham tips the scale too far into comedy and cheap laughs that the historical importance of the show is glazed over. Billy Elliot however has it right. It will have you laughing, crying but most importantly leaving you with a real sense of what life was like for these people.
Reviewed by West End Wilma