King's Theatre, Glasgow
Written and performed by Gary McNair, and celebrating what Billy Connolly means to the people of Scotland, Dear Billy is currently on a World Premier tour of Scotland that ends with a special three day run at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow from Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 June.
The production was announced last year to mark Billy Connolly’s 80th birthday year.
🎟️ Glasgow info and tickets HERE
Described as "A Love Letter to the Big Yin from the People of Scotland" Dear Billy brings a combination of comedy and music to the stage, much like man himself so skilfully does.
The show is simple in construct: Gary McNair takes on the persona of many members of the Scottish public who tell their stories about Billy Connolly. Some of the stories are funny, some of them are rude, one or two of them are even heart-breaking; But hearing them all, there is no doubt that Billy is a man of the people. 'He's one of us' and he means so much to so very many.
Billy is described as 'a presence' in one story and this is a theme that runs through many of the tales. Billy Connolly is someone special and to meet him, to see him or to listen to him is like a religious experience for some. Those that have had the honour of hosting him in their homes say he was like an old friend. A superstar yes, but one who will talk to you for hours and eat all of your scones.
Dear Billy is a unique touring production that has evolved on the road. Having toured Scotland for the past two months, now even more wonderful stories have been gathered from audience members along the way and woven into the show as the tour progressed.
Accompanying the stories at all times we have beautiful live music composed and performed on stage by Simon Liddell and Jill O’Sullivan. There is a bright and attractive set by Claire Halleran, and with lighting by Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes, there is so much more 'staging' to this show than I expected. The whole production comes together beautifully resulting in much more than just a man, standing on stage, telling stories.
That may have worked though, because The Man in question is Scottish writer, performer Gary McNair. Gary is an energetic and engaging focal point for the show; He is so charismatic and likeable on stage that despite not being Billy himself, the audience warmed to him straight away.
For the full ninety minute run time Gary bounced between various carefully staged microphones switching to a new persona and a new anecdote in each new location. A clever directorial choice that keeps the audience engaged. Gary didn't stop talking for the whole show; He must be exhausted! But his love and enthusiasm for the show, and for Billy himself are evident and no doubt keep him going.
Ending the tour at the Glasgow King's Theatre is no accident: In the 1970s, Billy Connolly performed a two-week run of sold out shows at the King's where Billy described the theatre as feeling "like you were performing inside a wedding cake". For the whole two week run, the infamous Pastor Jack Glass stood outside condemning Billy as a blasphemer. It was lovey to hear an anecdote about Pastor Glass and his influence included in the show this evening; He inadvertently pushed people towards Billy Connolly rather than away!
With Dear Billy National Theatre of Scotland, Gary McNair and Director Joe Douglas have created a fun yet touching tribute to Billy Connolly. It's such a tall order; he's a legend and a hero to many fans in Scotland and across the world - myself included. But Billy's legacy is in safe hands here. There's something for everyone to enjoy or to relate to. I left the theatre vowing to raise a glass to Billy myself this weekend, and to take a few moments to tell my family some of my own stories about why he means so much to me.
I think Billy Connolly will forever be associated with Gary McNair in my brain now though... I cannot think of anyone who could've done a better job of writing and performing a love letter to Billy Connolly from the people of Scotland than he. Thank you Gary. And thank you Billy.
The King's Theatre is the final stop on the tour, and due to popular demand, the Gallery in the Theatre has been opened up for audiences, with tickets available at £13 pounds.
There are also £5 tickets available to those aged 16-25, or claiming Universal Credit, as part of NTS 'Theatre for a Fiver scheme'. Full details can be found here.
🎟️ Glasgow info and tickets HERE
Written and performed by Gary McNair and directed by Joe Douglas. Produced by National Theatre of Scotland.
📸 Production Photos: Sally Jubb.
🎟️ **I was invited to this show by NTS and received complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.**
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🍌 A review of Dear Billy by NTS, National Theatre of Scotland, King's Theatre, Glasgow. Comedy, Music, Tribute to Billy Connolly by Gary McNair 🍌
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